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Sun May 21, 2017, 03:34 PM

This Wasnt a Speech About Islam

Mustafa Akyol, a contributing opinion writer, is a visiting fellow at the Freedom Project at Wellesley College and the author, most recently, of “The Islamic Jesus: How the King of the Jews Became a Prophet of the Muslims.”

Wajahat Ali is a playwright, lawyer and contributing opinion writer.

Two of our opinion writers, Mustafa Akyol in Istanbul and Wajahat Ali in the Washington, D.C. area, watched President Trump’s speech in Saudi Arabia this morning and discussed what they thought it means for the Middle East, American foreign policy and Muslims around the world.

Wajahat Ali: “Assalam Alaikum.” I mean that sincerely. President Obama opened his remarks in Cairo in 2009 — which this speech was obviously meant to echo — with the universal greetings of peace used by more than one and a half billion Muslims.

I retained a morsel of hope that President Trump would use his “Islam” speech in Saudi Arabia as a corrective measure — if not a 180 shift — for his previous anti-Muslim statements, and his use of Muslims as a political piñata to advance a white-nationalist, anti-immigrant agenda. I hoped he would actually be inspired by the beauty and spiritual depth of our respective religions, Islam and Christianity, specifically using this platform to reach out to Muslims through shared narratives of hopes, verses from the Quran and Bible, personal stories of his positive interaction with Muslims and the rich benefits and contributions of diverse American Muslim citizens.

Of course, I’m not a naïve, wide-eyed idealist and I didn’t drink the Halal Kool aid. I knew the bar was exceedingly low, so all Trump would have to do is stay on script, not say anything egregiously offensive and it would be considered an “improvement.” Which it was. . .

Mustafa: All in all, this wasn’t a speech about Islam. It was all about terrorism and the Middle East. Trump did not say anything significant about Islam as a religion and civilization. The whole point was that there are terrorists in the Middle East that we all should eradicate — and the United States selling “beautiful weapons,” by the way, to help that effort.

In my view, the only audience this speech can help is Trump supporters back in America. They can realize that the Islam-is-the-enemy approach they expected to see from a “politically incorrect” president is simply incorrect, and now even Trump sees this fact and acts accordingly.

Wajahat: He tried to appease his base by calling for Saudi Arabia to “Drive them out,” but by dropping his big stick instead for a golden Saudi necklace. He wants to combat extremism by supporting authoritarian regimes that snuff out the very same Muslim men and women who are deprived of potential futures.

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/21/opinion/this-wasnt-a-speech-about-islam.html?

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