Trump Calls On Muslim Leaders To Help 'Drive Out' Terrorism

May 21, 2017
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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

We've been reaching out to Muslim-American thought leaders throughout the day. We'll hear that later. But first, here's more from NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith who was in Riyadh for the president's speech.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Contrast what the president said today with the broad brush he used to describe Islam in this CNN interview from 2016.

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I think Islam hates us. There's something there that - there's a tremendous hatred there.

KEITH: And this line he used at campaign rallies.

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TRUMP: Now, we must defeat radical Islamic terrorism.

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TRUMP: Yet, my opponent won't even say the words radical Islamic terror.

KEITH: Trump didn't say those words today, but he came close.

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TRUMP: There is still much work to be done. That means honestly confronting the crisis of Islamic extremism and the Islamists and Islamic terror of all kinds. We must stop what they are doing to inspire because they do nothing to inspire but kill.

KEITH: Shadi Hamid is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and wrote the book "Islamic Exceptionalism."

SHADI HAMID: A lot of us are going into it with that history in mind. So really what Trump had to do in this speech was avoid saying anything terribly offensive about Islam or Muslims, and he did that.

KEITH: Hamid says this is an admittedly low bar, but he says President Trump cleared it. The speech was Trump's answer to one President Obama gave in 2009 in Cairo, a speech that Trump and many Republicans criticized mightily. And early in his address, Trump alluded to Obama.

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TRUMP: We are not here to lecture. We are not here to tell other people how to live, what to do, who to be or how to worship. Instead, we are here to offer partnership.

KEITH: Partnership - but he told the leaders they have to do their fair share.

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TRUMP: Drive them out. Drive them out of your places of worship. Drive them out of your communities. Drive them out of your Holy Land, and drive them out of this Earth.

KEITH: Trump had criticized President Obama's Cairo speech for not having the moral courage to condemn the, quote, "oppression of women and gays in many Muslim nations and the systemic violations of human rights." But as president, Trump delivered a speech in a country where women aren't allowed to drive to leaders of many nations accused of human rights violations and said this.

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TRUMP: We must seek partners, not perfection and to make allies of all who share our goals.

KEITH: This is how Shadi Hamid from Brookings translates it.

HAMID: And that's a strong signal to Saudi leaders, to other Arab authoritarian leaders telling them essentially that, hey, I'm not going to bother you on human rights and democracy, but in exchange, I want you guys to step up in the fight against extremism. That's sort of the transaction that Trump is pursuing here.

KEITH: In this speech, Trump spoke of lofty goals - defeating terrorism, achieving peace in the Middle East, even world peace. He'll meet with Israeli and Palestinian leaders on the next leg of his trip. Tamara Keith, NPR News, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.