Focus will be on Trump’s narrative not optics
President Donald Trump will land in Riyadh this morning on his first foreign trip since taking office.
He leaves behind a Washington that is in an uproar.
Trump, whatever one may say about him, is a man who speaks his mind.
His election rhetoric left many alarmed. His remarks about Mexicans and Muslims added to the already heightened anxiety prevailing in certain quarters in the United States.
His comments about Muslims troubled many in the Muslim world. While his sloganeering appealed to many, his statement “I think Islam hates us” dismayed millions of Muslims.
However, as he arrives today, we would truly like to believe that those words were merely part of an election campaign. Trump is going to speak tomorrow to many Muslims who are waiting to hear what he has to say. It is speculated that he will talk about the need for peace and tolerance, and that people should not conflate Islam with terrorism.
He, therefore, has to be forceful and not condescending and deal with all forms of extremism. He should openly reject Islamophobia and condemn those who preach and practice it.
It is to the credit of Saudi Arabia that it has been able to gather together such a large number of Arab and Muslim leaders under one umbrella to talk to the US president.
The Middle East has suffered a lot due to its inability to solve its domestic problems and to outside interference. Enough blood has been spilled. The key issues that Trump has to deal with right now are to see that order is restored in Iraq, Syria and elsewhere. However to do that, the guns should stop and the aspirations of people should be respected.
Paramount among the issues to be solved is the problem of Palestine and its occupation by Israel, which has flouted every UN resolution. In addressing this issue, the US can play the role of an honest broker.
Trump will earn the gratitude of all if he is able to persuade the Israelis that occupation and repression will do it no good in the eyes of the world.
His narrative will then be more powerful and productive than the optics of his visits. All peace-loving people around the globe want the American partnership with the Muslim world to succeed.