Trump Gave a Surprisingly Intelligent Speech to Muslim Leaders

American president Donald Trump and his wife, Melania, arrive at King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, May 20
American president Donald Trump and his wife, Melania, arrive at King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, May 20 (White House/Shealah Craighead)

This could have gone a lot worse. The speech Donald Trump gave on Islam and terror in Riyadh on Sunday was surprisingly intelligent.

According to his prepared remarks, the president rejected the clash-of-civilizations paradigm some of his fanatical underlings, like Steve Bannon, have promoted.

“This is not a battle between different faiths, different sects or different civilizations,” Trump told an assembly of Muslim leaders.

This is a battle between barbaric criminals who seek to obliterate human life and decent people of all religions who seek to protect it.

That is quite right — and a reversal from Trump’s previous rhetoric. Read more

Trump’s Ban: Alternative Facts Create Real-Life Policy

Vice President Mike Pence applauds as President Donald Trump signs a document confirming James Mattis as his secretary of defense during a ceremony at the Pentagon in Washington DC, January 27
Vice President Mike Pence applauds as President Donald Trump signs a document confirming James Mattis as his secretary of defense during a ceremony at the Pentagon in Washington DC, January 27 (DoD/Jette Carr)

Donald Trump has always had a difficult relationship with the truth. His sheer volume of daily falsehoods overwhelms an unprepared news media — and buries unsavory stories which the Republican would prefer to keep hidden.

Trump even manages to construct entire narratives via a steady diet of alternative facts delivered to his supporters.

This weekend, we saw something new: For the first time, those falsehoods came together to generate, enact and justify policy. Read more

Muslim Registry Would Require Investigation of Thought Crimes

Visitors wait in line outside the Islamic Institute of Orange County, California, October 17, 2010
Visitors wait in line outside the Islamic Institute of Orange County, California, October 17, 2010 (IIOC)

As the Trump transition rolls along, the infamous “Muslim ban” has returned to the forefront.

It all started on December 7, 2015, when then-candidate Donald Trump spoke to supporters after the San Bernardino mass shooting. He advocated a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.” This proposal is still on his website.

It has been willfully forgotten or explained away since, but the fact remains: Trump’s first instinct was to call for a Muslim ban of indeterminate length.

It doesn’t stop there. Even in July, Trump said his plan had undergone an “expansion” and would bar individuals from places “compromised by terrorism.” This includes NATO allies like France and Germany. They “totally” meet this definition, Trump said, because they “allowed people to come into their territory.” Read more

The Bloody End of 2016’s Ramadan

A cemetery is seen from the air in Baghdad, Iraq, April 21
A cemetery is seen from the air in Baghdad, Iraq, April 21 (DoD/Dominique A. Pineiro)

Certainly, the end of this year’s Ramadan will go down as one of the century’s bloodiest. First Istanbul; then Dhaka, rounded off by Baghdad, Qatif, Medina and Jeddah. It’s not wholly clear just how much the Islamic State controlled or directed these attacks or merely inspired them, but owing to their scale, scope and timing they are worth examining in the wider context of the geopolitical view of Sunni supremacist terrorism.

Thus we must embark upon the road of understanding, of causation and explanation, to pinpoint sources and posit solutions. We needn’t empathize with the madness, only know that it has its own form of rationality it is playing by. Read more

The Arab Spring In Review

A protester waves an Egyptian flag in Cairo, February 4, 2012
A protester waves an Egyptian flag in Cairo, February 4, 2012 (Alisdare Hickson)

Five years later, the dismal record of the Arab Spring is all too apparent. Syria burns, Egypt’s new pharaoh goes from strength to strength while the Gulf monarchs, having launched war in Yemen, have rarely seemed so lethal. Democracy, it is clear, did not sweep in with the revolutions of the 2011-12.

But that’s no reason to dismiss the spring entirely. All such wide-scale events have resonance. For better or worse, the Arab world is certainly different and in some slim ways even improved since 2011.

Here now is the geopolitical review of the Arab Spring. Read more

Why a Western “War of Ideas” with Islam is Futile

A young girl and an older man pray inside the Blue Mosque of Istanbul, Turkey, December 29, 2012
A young girl and an older man pray inside the Blue Mosque of Istanbul, Turkey, December 29, 2012 (Stròlic Furlàn-Davide Gabino)

In the wake of recent Islamic terrorist attacks in Europe and the United States, well-meaning liberals have revived calls for a “war of ideas,” arguing that the “ideology” of the terrorists must be defeated as much as the terrorists themselves.

American president Barack Obama maintains that “countering violent extremism” involves more than a military effort. “Ideologies are not defeated with guns but better ideas and more attracting and more compelling vision,” he said last year.

British prime minister David Cameron has similarly argued, “What we are fighting in Islamist extremism is an ideology.” Not only those advocating violence must be challenged, he believes, but everyone who promotes “parts of the extremist narrative.”

Politicians in other countries and thought leaders across the Western world have argued much the same.

Their attempts could be futile if Middle East expert Adam Garfinkle is right. Read more

Republicans to America: Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid

Republican senator Ted Cruz of Texas speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland, February 26
Republican senator Ted Cruz of Texas speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland, February 26 (Gage Skidmore)

Republican presidential candidates in the United States have seized on a mass shooting in San Bernardino earlier this month to ramp up their war rhetoric.

Carried out by a self-radicalized Muslim couple who were apparently inspired by the Islamic State militant group in the Middle East, the murder of fourteen people in southern California is a vindication for Republicans who have long accused President Barack Obama, the Democrat they hope to succeed, of wavering in the fight against radical Islam. Read more