Trump’s speech draws mixed reaction from US Muslim scholars, bodies

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NEW YORK, May 22 (APP): Muslim scholars and organization here took note of President Donald Trump’s attempts in his Riyadh speech to soften the strong anti-Muslim rhetoric he used in the 2016 presidential campaign, but said new policies and concrete actions were needed to reset relations with the Muslim world.
“While President Trump’s address (Sunday) in Saudi Arabia appears to
be an attempt to set a new and more productive tone in relations with the Muslim world, one speech cannot outweigh years of anti-Muslim rhetoric and policy proposals,” Nihad Awad, the executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a prominent Muslim civil rights group, said in a statement.
“We welcome President Trump’s recognition of Islam as “one of the
world’s great faiths, but that recognition does not wipe out years of well-documented anti-Islam animus, “Awad added. “New policies and concrete actions, not mere rhetoric, are what is needed to reset relations with the Muslim world.
“Before Trump lectured the world about human rights and civil rights, he should himself respect civil rights and human rights at home. He enacted the Muslim ban and continues to defend it in court, so he cannot just talk from both sides of his mouth.”
Mustafa Akyol, a visiting fellow at Wellesley College, Massachusetts,
said Trump’s speech wasn’t really about Islam.
“A ‘speech on Muslims’ could have also been richer, with perhaps
examples of how Muslims have contributed to the world, including to American society,” he wrote in The New York Times. “This was a more modest, narrow and pragmatic speech, mostly appealing to Muslim leaders “in fact, only Sunni ones” for more cooperation against terrorism. But given Mr. Trump’s earlier views on Islam, it could have been worse!”
Wajahat Ali, an American writer of Pakistani origin, wrote in the Times,
“Trump was playing particularly to not just his Saudi hosts but the other Gulf Arab countries: Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman. Shared interests with these Muslim countries include limiting Iran and its influence in Syria, Lebanon and Yemen. Also, a very shared interest in promoting lucrative oil and arms deals.”
Responding to a question in a National Public Radio interview, Reza
Aslan, an internationally acclaimed scholar of comparative religion, said, “I have to provide a sober analysis of a trip to promote religious tolerance made by a man who made religious intolerance the hallmark of his divisive campaign, a man who said Islam hates us, who called for a ban on all Muslims entering the United States, who called for a registry of all Muslims already here, including U.S. citizens, a man whose very name has become a kind of racial slur in the mounts of some of his supporters.”
H.A. Hellyer, an Atlantic Council fellow who writes about the Arab
World, said the speech did not close Trump’s “credibility gap.”
“You can’t go from saying “I think Islam hates us” to saying
“Oh, what a wonderful religion,” Hellyer told Time.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson insisted Trump’s speech was just
the beginning of new dialogue he would open about Islam.
“The President himself has said he has learned a lot on this trip, and
he’s learned a lot about the people, he’s learned a lot about their culture,” Tillerson said on “Fox News Sunday.”
“I think this is a really important process in terms of how we move
forward with this relationship between the Muslim world and the non-Muslim world.”
As a candidate, Trump targeted Saudi Arabia for its oppressive treatment of women and gays. He also hammered his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, for letting his Clinton Foundation charity accept up to $25 million in donations from the Saudi kingdom.