In a speech to Muslim leaders during his first trip abroad since taking office, President Donald Trump invoked “shared interests and values,” striking a less incendiary tone toward a religion he repeatedly railed against on the campaign trail.
“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,” Trump said, speaking at the Arab Islamic American Summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. “Instead, we are here to offer partnership based on shared interests and values to pursue a better future for us all.”
He said that “terrorists do not worship God, they worship death.”
Trump did not use the phrase “radical Islamic terrorism,” one he has used often in the past and criticized President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton for not using.
He referred instead to “Islamic extremism and the Islamists and Islamic terror of all kinds,” though his prepared remarks cited only “Islamist terror groups” and “Islamist extremism.”
“Of course there is still much work to do,” Trump said. “And it means standing together against the murder of innocent Muslims, the oppression of women, the persecution of Jews, and the slaughter of Christians.”
He called for “gradual reforms, not sudden intervention.”
“This is not a battle between different faiths, different sects or different civilizations,” Trump said. “Every time a terrorist murders an innocent person and falsely invokes the name of God, it should be an insult to every person of faith.”
In an interview on ABC News’ “This Week” ahead of Trump’s speech, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster suggested that Trump would lean away from his usual rhetoric and phrasing, saying, “The President will call it whatever he wants to call it.”
As first the Republican nominee and then candidate over the last two years, Trump apparently wanted to call it “hatred.”
In December 2015, Trump proposed “a complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until out country’s representatives can figure out what the hell is going on.”
“We have no choice,” he said. “It is obvious to anybody the hatred is beyond comprehension. Where this hatred comes from and why we will have to determine.”
In a March 2016 interview with CNN, Trump said: “I think Islam hates us.”
“There’s something there that is a tremendous hatred there. There’s a tremendous hatred. We have to get to the bottom of it,” he said. “There is an unbelievable hatred of us.”