President Donald Trump used his platform while visiting Saudi Arabia to make it clear that Muslim-majority countries have an obligation to fight against Islamic extremism too.
As the BBC reported, Speaking in the Saudi capital to leaders of 55 Muslim-majority countries, Mr Trump called this a “new chapter”, saying he was not there to “lecture” them or impose the American way of life.
The fight against extremism, he added, was not a battle between different faiths: “This is a battle between good and evil”.
“A better future is only possible if your nations drive out the terrorists, and drive out the extremists”.
But, he added, the countries could not wait for “American power” to act, and had to “fulfill their part of the burden.”
Behind the lavish praise heaped on his hosts, President Trump used this speech to deliver a tough message to Arab and Muslim governments: deal with the ideology that fuels terrorism now or live with it for generations to come.
He went out of his way to avoid the sort of inflammatory language he’s more usually known for. His repeated condemnation of Saudi Arabia’s regional rival Iran will have pleased the Gulf Arab leaders listening.
Unlike his predecessor, Barack Obama, this US president made no mention of human rights or democracy. But he did condemn the oppression of women.
At the end of 2015 Saudi Arabia formed a Muslim “anti-terrorism” coalition of 34 mainly-Muslim States to coordinate a fight against terrorism (mainly ISIS). Saudi Arabia’s regional rivals Iran, Syria, and Iraq were excluded from the alliance.
The coalition came following criticism that the world’s Muslim nations weren’t doing enough to fight Islamic extremism, and still faces criticism as a sectarian alliance, as it’s mainly composed of Sunni Muslims.
Such a coalition could be nothing more than PR however, especially given Saudi Arabia’s history as a state sponsor of terrorism. Iran often gets the designation of being the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism, but of the 61 groups the U.S. State Department lists as terrorist organizations, only two are Shi’a Muslims (Iran is Shi’a, not Sunni). The overwhelming majority are Sunni militant groups, nearly all of which receive support from either Saudi Arabia’s government, or Saudi citizens.
While one cannot disagree the Muslim world must do more to fight extremism, the cessation of funding it would be a nice start.