RIYADH: United States President Donald Trump urged Muslim leaders on Sunday 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 at the Arab-Islamic-American Summit in Saudi Arabia, he lashed out at Iran, accusing it of fuelling “the fires of sectarian conflict and terror” and calling for its international isolation.
Saying he had come with “a message of friendship and hope and love”, Mr Trump told dozens of Muslim leaders that the time had come for “honestly confronting the crisis of Islamist extremism”.
PM Sharif recounts achievements against terrorism in interactions during Riyadh summit
“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,” he said.
“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,” President Trump alleged. “Until the Iranian regime is willing to be a partner for peace, all nations of conscience must work together to isolate it.”
He appealed to Muslim nations to ensure that “terrorists find no sanctuary on their soil” and announced an agreement with Gulf countries to fight financing for extremists.
Introducing the US leader, Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz called Iran “the spearhead of global terrorism”.
Unlike the Obama administration which would often raise concerns over civil liberties with longstanding Arab allies, President Trump 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,” he said.
Some 35 heads of state and government from Muslim-majority countries, including Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, are in Riyadh for the summit, mainly from those friendly to Saudi Arabia. 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.
Mr Trump’s speech was touted as a major event — along the lines of a landmark address to the Muslim world by former president Barack Obama in Cairo in 2009. It was especially sensitive given tensions sparked by the Trump administration’s attempted travel ban targeting several Muslim-majority nations and his previous remarks on Islam.
Still, he was welcomed warmly in Saudi Arabia, where he and first lady Melania Trump were given an extravagant reception by King Salman and the rest of the royal family.
Mr Trump also held meetings with other Arab leaders, including Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al Sisi, Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani and Bahrain’s King Hamad.
The US president will travel on Monday to Israel and the Palestinian territories.
Centre against extremism
King Salman warmly received Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif as he arrived at the King Abdulaziz Conference Centre to participate in the summit being hosted by Saudi Arabia. The event is being attended by the representatives of 51 countries.
The prime minister also planned to join the world leaders to attend the inauguration ceremony of the World Centre against Extremism, an important counter-radicalisation initiative by Saudi Arabia.
During his interaction with the leaders of Saudi Arabia, the US, Qatar, Bahrain, Azerbaijan, Malaysia, Tajikistan and other countries, Mr Sharif said Pakistan had a deep commitment to the unity of the Muslim world and to the promotion of interfaith harmony and dialogue.
He said the turnaround in Pakistan both on the security and economic fronts, with the past year witnessing the lowest number of terrorist attacks in a decade, presented a good example of how political commitment, based on an across-the-board national consensus, supported by determined and well-organised kinetic operations of armed forces, could bring about the desired results in countries afflicted with extremism and terrorism.
According to a Foreign Office statement, Mr Sharif said that being a frontline state, Pakistan had rendered remarkable sacrifices in the global fight against terrorism. “We have confronted terrorism with courage and conviction; and the massive human and financial costs have strengthened our resolve.”
Published in Dawn, May 22nd, 2017