US President Donald Trump has urged Islamic leaders to take a stand against violence done in the name of religion, describing the struggle against extremism as a battle between good and evil.
In a highly anticipated speech in Saudi Arabia yesterday, Trump lashed out at Iran, accusing Tehran of fuelling the fires of sectarian conflict and terror and calling for its international isolation.
He told dozens of Muslim leaders that the time had come for honestly confronting the crisis of Islamist extremism.
“This is a battle between barbaric criminals who seek to obliterate human life, and decent people of all religions who seek to protect it. This is a battle between good and evil,” Trump said.
The speech came on the second day of a visit to Saudi Arabia, part of Trump’s first foreign tour that will take him next to Israel and the Palestinian territories, and then to Europe.
Trump did not hesitate to single out Iran in his speech.
“From Lebanon to Iraq to Yemen, Iran funds, arms and trains terrorists, militias and other extremist groups that spread destruction and chaos across the region,” he said.
“Until the Iranian regime is willing to be a partner for peace, all nations of conscience must work together to isolate it.”
Unlike the Obama administration which would often raise concerns over civil liberties with longstanding Arab allies, Trump has made no mention of human rights during his visit so far.
“We are not here to lecture, we are not here to tell other people how to live, or how to worship. Instead, we are here to offer partnership based on shared interests and values,” Trump said.
Some 35 heads of state and government from Muslim-majority countries were in Riyadh for the Arab Islamic American Summit.
Much of the focus during the summit was on countering what Gulf states see as the threat from Iran, which opposes Saudi Arabia in a range of regional conflicts from Syria to Yemen.
Yesterday, Trump also held a series of meetings with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani and Bahrain’s King Hamad.
Trump referred to al-Sisi as “my friend” and al-Sisi said the US president was a unique personality and capable of doing the impossible, to which Trump responded: “I agree!”