The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, today responded to President Trump’s speech broadcast this morning from Saudi Arabia seeking to reset relations with the Muslim world.
Last week, CAIR offered advice to the president as he prepared the speech offered today.
SEE: CAIR Offers Advice to Trump on ‘Islam’ Speech Being Written by Author of Muslim Ban
In his response to President Trump’s speech, CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad said:
“While President Trump’s address today in Saudi Arabia appears to be an attempt to set a new and more productive tone in relations with the Muslim world, one speech cannot outweigh years of anti-Muslim rhetoric and policy proposals – including an attempt to enact a Muslim ban by executive order, which his administration continues to defend in court.
“We welcome President Trump’s recognition of Islam as ‘one of the world’s great faiths,’ but that recognition does not wipe out years of well-documented anti-Islam animus. The president should also recognize the contributions American Muslims make and have made for generations – to the betterment of our nation.
“New policies and concrete actions – not mere rhetoric – are what is needed to reset relations with the Muslim world.
“Such concrete actions should include condemning Islamophobia, protecting the civil rights of American Muslims and other minority groups, achieving just and comprehensive resolutions to the various Middle East conflicts, ending religious and ethnic profiling at borders and in airports, ending support for dictators whose oppression foments extremism and violence, and supporting mainstream Muslims who peacefully pursue social, economic and political progress around the world.
“President Trump should instruct his representatives to stop legal efforts aimed at reinstating his ‘Muslim ban’ executive order and should remove anti-Islam advisers like Sebastian Gorka and Steve Bannon from his team. He should also appoint a recognized American Muslim representative to lead his outreach to other Muslims.
“American Muslims share the goals of stamping out violent extremism, protecting minorities targeted by hate and providing a more hopeful future for children of all faiths and backgrounds. That has never been in doubt.
“We also share the belief that the struggle to end violent extremism is not a battle between faiths or civilizations. But when a faith or civilization is viewed exclusively through the lens of violence and extremism, that singular perspective creates distortions that inevitably lead to policies that have the opposite of the desired effect.
“Muslims in America and around the world have consistently condemned violent extremism and Muslim military personnel of many nations – including our own – are on the ground fighting those who carry out acts of violence. Muslims die daily fighting ISIS, Al-Qaeda and other terror groups.
“ISIS has called for American Muslim leaders to be assassinated after they deconstructed that group’s anti-Islamic actions. We are still waiting for President Trump to acknowledge that reality or to acknowledge and repudiate the growing Islamophobia in America for which he and his supporters must assume a large degree of responsibility.
“We note the evolution of President Trump’s terminology away from ‘radical Islamic terrorism’ – which Muslims and nonpartisan policy-makers view as offensive and counterproductive – to the use of the term ‘Islamist.’ [NOTE: President Trump did refer to ‘Islamic extremism’ and ‘Islamic terror’ in today’s speech.]
“While the shift in terminology seems to be a laudable attempt to delink the faith of Islam from terrorism, the use of the ill-defined term ‘Islamist’ will only serve to perpetuate that false linkage.
“Unfortunately, ‘Islamist’ is often used to describe both those engaged in acts of terrorism and those seeking peaceful social and political participation based on mainstream Islamic values and principles.
“Without actually defining the term or outlining what criteria are used when applying that label to individuals, groups or nations, the linkage of the term ‘Islamist’ to violence and extremism unjustifiably associates all of Islam to the anti-Islamic acts of a tiny minority of extremists. Many American Muslims are motivated by their faith to engage in making an American democracy that works for everyone.
“The American Muslim community stands ready – as it always has – to counter the poisonous views and violent actions of anyone who would violate the principles of Islam and the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) by committing acts of terrorism or espousing religious extremism.
“As God says in the Quran: ‘And thus have We willed you to be a community of the middle way, so that (with your lives) you might bear witness to the truth before all humankind.'” (The Holy Quran, 2:143)