President Trump moderated his tone on Islam and terrorism in his speech Sunday (May 21st) in Saudi Arabia, the first stop of his nine-day foreign trip that's the first of his presidency. Speaking before an audience that included members of Saudi Arabia's ruling family, Trump struck similar notes as his two predecessors, former Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, speaking about a war against terrorim instead of a conflict between religions. He also didn't use the the term "radical Islamic terrorism," which he repeatedly slammed Obama for refusing to use, saying instead that the fight, quote, "means honestly confronting the crisis of Islamic extremism and the Islamists, and Islamic terror of all kinds." National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster had been trying to get Trump to stop using the "radical Islamic terrorism" phrase, calling it "counterproductive," but Trump had previously used it anyway in his speech before a joint session of Congress in February. Trump has also repeatedly spoken negatively about Islam, saying things like, "Islam hates us," and "I don't know that that question can be answered . . . We are not loved by many Muslims," when asked whether Islam is an inherently peaceful or inherently violent religion. Trump has also ordered a travel ban -- currently blocked by the courts -- that would ban travelers to the U.S. from six nations with mostly Muslim populations.
There were other reversals from previous Trump statements as well:
Trump has previously been critical of Saudi Arabia, accusing the kingdom of wanting, quote, "women as slaves and to kill gays," and suggesting they were behind the 9/11 attacks. But Trump repeatedly praised the Saudis on Sunday and what he called the "magnificent kingdom."
During the presidential campaign, Trump frequently blasted Hillary Clinton's ties to the charitable Clinton Foundation, which received millions in donations from Saudi Arabia and other Mideast nations, accusing her of pay-to-play and slamming the Saudis over women's rights and gay rights. But yesterday it was announced that Saudi Arabia and the UAE had pledged $100 million for the Women Entrepreneur's Fund, proposed by Trump's daughter and White House adviser Ivanka Trump.
Trump criticized then-First Lady Michelle Obama in 2015 for not wearing a headscarf on her visit to Saudi Arabia, saying it insulted the Saudis and adding, "We have enough enemies." But neither First Lady Melania Trump nor Ivanka Trump, who are on the trip with the president, are wearing a head scarf in Saudi Arabia.