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Saudi king expected to present unified front with Trump, strongly condemn terrorism in the name of Islam

Saudi Arabia's King Salman presents President Trump with the collar of Abdulaziz Al Saud Medal in Riyadh on Saturday. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

President Trump and King Salman of Saudi Arabia will present a unified front in the global war against terrorism Sunday, praising Islam as a religion of peace and casting the fight against terrorism as one of all faiths and civilizations coming together to combat evil.

Trump, according to an advance portion of the remarks he will deliver in Riyadh on Sunday afternoon at a summit of about 50 Muslim nations, will describe the fight against radicalism as “a battle between good and evil.”

“This is not a battle between different faiths, different sects or different civilizations,” the president will say, according to an administration official. “This is a battle between barbaric criminals who seek to obliterate human life and decent people of all regions who seek to protect it. This is a battle between good and evil.”

Trump, who prepared five different versions of his speech, working with Stephen Miller, his senior policy adviser, and a group of National Security Council officials, is expected to take a softer tone on Islam, especially compared with his campaign rhetoric, where he proposed banning Muslims from entering the United States and asserted, “Islam hates us.”

Trump campaigned against Muslims, but will preach tolerance in Saudi speech

Trump, senior White House officials said, does not plan to travel abroad and lecture other countries on human rights, as former president Barack Obama did — and his line about good vs. evil is reminiscent of language former president George W. Bush used in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks.

Salman is also expected to take a strong stance against terrorism committed in the name of Islam.

“To our Muslim brothers and sisters, and sons and daughters all across the world, I say that one of Islam’s most important tenants is preserving life and there is no honor in any criminal act of killing, and that Islam condemns the killing of innocent life and considers it akin to killing all humanity,” Salman will say, according to an administration official who has worked closely with the Saudis in preparation for Sunday’s summit. “Islam is the religion of peace and tolerance and has called upon us all to build on Earth and not cause destruction. Fulfilling our region’s noble purposes is through spreading Islam’s tolerance values of peace and moderation.”

The Saudis have taken a tough stance against terrorism before, as in a 2005 interview when then-King Abdullah described al-Qaeda as “madness and evil” and “the work of the devil.”

But both the Saudi government and the Trump administration expect Salman’s remarks, coming in Saudi Arabia — the custodian of Islam’s two cities of Mecca and Medina — to send a strong signal that the two nations take seriously their goal of countering radical ideology.