President Donald Trump attending the opening session of the Gulf Cooperation Council summit Sunday in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Photo by Saudi Press Agency/EPA
May 21 (UPI) -- U.S. President Donald Trump, departing from his "radical Islamic terrorism" rhetoric, on Sunday asked Muslims to share in a "battle between good and evil" in the conflict against "Islamist extremism," adding it is not a war against Muslims.
Trump, on the second day of his trip to Saudi Arabia, spoke out against the militant and political ideology of "Islamist extremism" and called Islam "one of the world's great faiths." During his 33-minute speech, he avoided the term "radical Islamic terrorism."
"This is not a battle between different faiths, different sects or different civilizations," Trump said in Riyadh during an Arab Islamic American Summit of leaders of more than 50 Muslim nations. "This is a battle between barbaric criminals who seek to obliterate human life, and decent people of all religions who seek to protect it. This is a battle between good and evil."
Trump called on Muslim countries in the Middle East to bear more of the share in fighting terrorist groups including the Islamic State.
"We can only overcome this evil if the forces of good are united and strong -- and if everyone in this room does their fair share and fulfills their part of the burden," Trump said at The King Abdulaziz Conference Center.
The world cannot solely rely on Americans, Trump said.
"The nations of the Middle East cannot wait for American power to crush this enemy for them," Trump said. "The nations of the Middle East will have to decide what kind of future they want for themselves, for their countries and for their children."
He said the United States will "make decisions based on real-world outcomes, not inflexible ideology," and "whenever possible, we will seek gradual reforms, not sudden intervention."
But the United States won't force its wishes on Muslims nations.
"We are not here to lecture," he said. "We are not here to tell other people how to live, what to do, who to be, or how to worship. Instead, we are here to offer partnership -- based on shared interests and values -- to pursue a better future for us all."
Trump has been concerned about conditions in Iraq and Syria. Last month, he ordered the firing of 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles into a west Syrian airfield from where it's believed President Bashar al-Assad's regime launched a deadly chemical attack this week that killed and injured hundreds of men, women and children.
"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," Trump said. "That means honestly confronting the crisis of Islamist extremism and the Islamist terror groups it inspires."
During his campaign, Trump had fiery rhetoric. He criticized President Barack Obama for not using the phrase "radical Islamic terrorism." He also said "Islam hates us," called for a ban on Muslims entering the United States, floated possibly creating a database of Muslims in the United States and called for surveillance of U.S. mosques.
Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, the president's national security adviser, has pushed Trump to stop using the phrase.
"The president will call it whatever he wants to call it," McMaster said in an interview Saturday with ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos. "But I think it's important that, whatever we call it, we recognize that these are not religious people and, in fact, these enemies of all civilizations, what they want to do is to cloak their criminal behavior under this false idea of some kind of religious war."
Trump used the phrase in a commencement speech to Coast Guard cadets this week,
On Sunday, Trump was reaching out to the the world's 1.6 billion Muslims worldwide and at a place that is home to Islam's two holiest sites.
"If we can change the conversation in the Islamic world from enmity toward the U.S. to partnership with the U.S., and if we can change the conversation in the U.S. and in the west from enmity toward the Islamic world to one of partnership, we will have truly changed our world and truly drowned the voices of extremism, and drain the swamps from which extremism and terrorism emanates," Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir said Saturday.
But Trump's administration is continuing to defend the executive order signed to bar visitors from six Muslim-majority countries. It was blocked in federal court and an appeals court is weighing whether it's attempt to fulfill his campaign promise to ban Muslims from the U.S.