(Washington, D.C.) — Never have the American people needed a solid strategic alliance with friendly Sunni Arab Muslims more than it does right now.
Never has a new American President and his administration had more to gain from carefully listening to — and truly partnering with — a Middle Eastern leader who shares our goals and actually wants to help us.
At a time when the Assad government is destroying Syria, when the Islamic State is slaughtering Muslims and waging genocide against Christians, and when the ayatollahs of Iran are hell-bent on becoming the dominant military power in the Middle East, we urgently need Muslim friends who oppose Radical Islam and Apocalyptic Islam and have the courage to stand against the forces of violent extremism.
At a time when millions of refugees are fleeing from Syria and Iraq, we also need an ally in the region with the compassion and the capacity to take these refugees in and care for them with food, clothing, shelter, and education until stability in their home countries are restored and they can return.
It is flat out wrong to say that all Muslims hate the West, and that there are no moderate Muslims out there. Those who say such things, or imply them, simply have no idea what they are talking about.
There are actually many Muslim allies eager to work with the U.S. against Iran and ISIS and other extremists. Among them: the leaders of Egypt, the Gulf States, Saudi Arabia, Azerbaijan, Indonesia, India, Turkey (though that’s a complicated one) and Pakistan (that’s also complicated).
The most impressive of these, as I have written before, is Jordan’s King Abdullah II. He is not simply a direct descendant of the founder of Islam who is beloved by the people he leads; he is also a moderate, a man of peace (including maintaining a treaty with Israel), and far and away the most faithful and trustworthy Sunni Arab ally the Western alliance has. He has welcomed more refugees into his country than any of his neighbors, and his military is actively fighting ISIS and defending his people from the threat ISIS poses.
True, Washington doesn’t agree with the King on every issue. But with what ally do we agree on every issue? The point is that there is a long and proven track record of working side-by-side with His Majesty towards common objectives, and against common enemies.
Thus, it was an honor to attend a luncheon on Thursday — part of the National Prayer Breakfast events — where King Abdullah delivered an excellent keynote address. He spoke on the importance of Christians, Jews and Muslims working together as friends, and on the importance of the U.S. and Jordan working closely together to defeat terrorists that he described as “outlaws” of Islam.
“We are here today to honor God’s role in our lives and in the future of our world,” the King began. “It is God who leads us to come together, as brothers, as sisters, equal in dignity, whatever our race or background or creed. His two greatest Commandments – to love God and love our neighbor – are recognized in Islam, Christianity, Judaism.”
“We especially value our deep friendship with the American people,” said the King. “So I was delighted this year to have another opportunity to join today’s important gathering. Allow me to say it was a special pleasure to greet President Trump at the Breakfast this morning. I’m keen to work with the new administration and our many other friends here in Washington.”
“For those of us who are Muslim, this fight is very personal,” the King explained. “These criminals are khawarej; outlaws to our faith. People nowadays talk about ‘Fake News’; the khawarej produce ‘Fake Islam’. They selectively paste together the words of Islamic texts, to promote a false and perverted ideology. In reality, everything they are, everything they do, is a blatant violation of the teachings of my faith.”
The King added, “I have called on the Muslim world to fight back boldly. We, like other faith communities, have a vast silent majority and it is time for that majority to get loud and to be clear in their condemnation.”
Joined by Queen Rania, His Majesty spoke to some 4,000 government, business and religious leaders from all 5o American states and more than 160 countries.
The King received two rousing and much-deserved standing ovations.
I am deeply encouraged that the Trump-Pence administration has wisely embraced the Jordanian leader and invited him to be the first Arab leader and first Muslim leader to meet with them in Washington.
On Monday, Vice President Pence had a working breakfast with the King at the Naval Observatory. The King also met during the week with all the key members of the President’s national security and foreign policy teams, and with many Congressional leaders, both Republicans and Democrats. During my meetings on Capitol Hill with Members of the House and Senate, I kept hearing rave reviews of their meetings with the King.
Most importantly, President Trump’s private meeting with His Majesty on Thursday was reportedly warm and substantive. The President praised the King as a true friend of the U.S. and the two men agreed to work together to strengthen the US-Jordanian partnership.
Indeed, “the King and the U.S. President agreed to hold a summit meeting in the near future,” reported the Petra News Agency. I’ll report more details on this as they become available.
For now, let’s be grateful these meetings went so well and let’s pray that the relationship between the President and the King grows quickly and deeply. Let’s also pray the two leaders and their teams can work together to build upon the historic if quiet alliance emerging between Israel and the Sunni Arabs to stand against the existential threats posed by Iran and ISIS.
President Obama never understood or capitalized on this enormous opportunity. Let’s hope the Trump-Pence team does.