WASHINGTON - U.S. President Donald Trump plans to give a major speech on the Islamic faith during his upcoming visit to Saudi Arabia, home to the religion’s major shrines.
National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster told reporters Tuesday that Trump, who is leaving for Saudi Arabia on Friday, would meet and have lunch with leaders of more than 50 Muslim countries and deliver “an inspiring, direct speech on the need to confront radical ideology and the president's hopes for a peaceful vision of Islam.”
McMaster said Trump’s first overseas trip as president is aimed at promoting unity among Muslims, Jews and Christians, with visits also set for Israel and the Vatican as part of a five-nation, nine-day trip.
Trump, a Christian, has sparked some of the most controversial moments of his campaign for the White House and his nearly four-month presidency with comments and policies related to Muslims.
During his presidential campaign, he called for banning Muslims from entering the United States until immigration authorities could figure out a way to determine if any of them were likely to commit a terrorist act.
He soon backed off that idea, but as president has attempted to impose two travel bans, one aimed at seven Muslim-majority countries where terrorist attacks have occurred, and then a second one that removed Iraq from the list but still called for a travel ban covering Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Sudan and Yemen.
U.S. courts have blocked both travel bans, although appellate courts are considering Trump’s appeal and the issue could wind up at the U.S. Supreme Court for a final ruling.
McMaster said that after a day of talks with Saudi King Salman and his crown prince, Trump would meet with leaders from across the Muslim world and would help open a center to de-radicalize extremists.
The national security adviser said the Islam speech is “intended to unite the broader Muslim world against common enemies of all civilization and to demonstrate America's commitment to our Muslim partners.”
He said that while on the trip Trump would visit key sites associated with Islam, Judaism and Christianity to stress "that we all have to be united and we have to be joined together with an agenda of tolerance and moderation."
In Israel, Trump is meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and will visit the Vad Yashem memorial to the Holocaust. The next day he will pray at the Western Wall, one of Judaism's holiest sites.
On the same day, Trump is meeting Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas in Bethlehem on the West Bank where McMaster said the president wants to continue pursuit of an agreement that ends the Israel-Palestinian conflict.
In Rome, Trump is meeting with Pope Francis at the Vatican, celebrating the contributions of Catholics to the United States and the world, and touring St Peter's Basilica.
Later, Trump is meeting with European Union officials in Brussels and attending a NATO meeting, before heading back to Italy for a G7 economic summit in Sicily.