The framing of the address may be at the root of the problem. Trump’s team has said this is a forthright speech about radical ideology in Islam and, according to National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, will be “inspiring yet direct.” Yet, this basic approach is the problem according to Imam Sultan:
“My concern is that President Trump’s obsessive singular focus of seeing Muslims as a security threat will be highlighted in such an address to the Muslim World resulting in dividing walls rather than bridges.”
All of these worries are combined with the irony of going to Saudi Arabia for a speech on Islam, given that Saudi Arabia has been exporting Wahhabism, a fundamentalist form of Islam, and that the majority of Muslims do not live in the Middle East, as Imam Sultan explains:
“Making such a speech in Saudi Arabia is exactly the wrong stage as the kingdom’s vision of Islam and influence in the Muslim World needs to be contained rather than exaggerated.”
The most complete response came from Wajahat Ali, attorney-turned-playwright and lead author of the investigative report “Fear Inc: The Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America.” He had some seriously funny, yet extremely serious advice for the President:
“President Trump, allow me to give you sincere advice. I know how hard you work while golfing at Mar-a-Lago or obsessively watching cable news shows when you should be, you know, reading. Being President is hard. It carries burdens and responsibilities, such as being informed, not tweeting reckless lies, having a functional White House staff, not colluding with foreign enemies and so forth.
“It can take a toll on even the biggest, greatest and smartest of leaders, such as yourself. That’s why you can tap out of this upcoming speech on Islam you plan on giving in Saudi Arabia. You don’t have to do it. Seriously. Please. Don’t. On behalf of 1.7 billion people, apparently part of the ‘Islam’ that you think ‘hates us,’ I’m giving you an out.
“You’ve enlightened us enough with your Obama birther conspiracy, lies about New Jersey Muslims celebrating the 9-11 attacks, Muslim bans, plans to do extreme vetting of Muslims, mulling a Muslim registry, and surrounding yourself by reactionary extremists like Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller who yearn for an apocalyptic confrontation with Islam. Also, in a testament to your enduring genius, you’ve tapped Mr. Miller to write this Islam speech for you. The same Mr. Miller who co-authored the Muslim Ban — even though he’s not an attorney — and also launched IslamoFascism Awareness Week at his Duke University.
“That’s genius lateral thinking.
“I hear Hezbollah is waiting to be drafted for your remarks on Judaism in Israel and Richard Dawkins in on tap to write about Catholicism and religion when you visit the Pope.
“Help me, help you.
“Don’t say anything about Islam.”
This post was originally published on Voices at Auburn.
Paul Brandeis Raushenbush is Senior Vice President at Auburn Seminary, and Editor of Voices at Auburn.