Tillerson: Trump Underscores Terror Fight 'Has Nothing to Do with Religion'

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in Saudi Arabia today that President Trump's trip underscores that the commander in chief "is clearly indicating that this fight of good against evil has nothing to do with religion."

"It has nothing to do with country. It has nothing to do with ethnicity. This is clearly a fight against good and evil," Tillerson said. "And the president is convinced with all sincerity that when the three great faiths of this world and the millions of Americans who practice these three great faiths – when we unify with our brothers in faith the world over, we can prevail over this – these forces of evil and these forces of terrorism and destabilization."

Tillerson was speaking at a press availability in Riyadh with Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir after Trump told the Arab-Islamic American Summit that the U.S. and Muslim world "begin a new chapter that will bring lasting benefits to all of our citizens."

"I stand before you as a representative of the American people to deliver a message of friendship and hope and love. That is why I chose to make my first foreign visit a trip to the heart of the Muslim world, to the nation that serves as custodian of the two holiest sites in the Islamic faith. In my inaugural address to the American people, I pledged to strengthen America's oldest friendships and to build new partnerships in pursuit of peace. I also promised that America will not seek to impose our way of life on others, but to outstretch our hands in the spirit of cooperation and trust," Trump said in the speech written by senior advisor Stephen Miller.

"Our vision is one of peace, security, and prosperity in this region and all throughout the world," Trump added. "Our goal is a coalition of nations who share the aim of stamping out extremism and providing our children a hopeful future that does honor to God... Every time a terrorist murders an innocent person and falsely invokes the name of God, it should be an insult to every person of faith."

Trump called the war against terrorism "not a battle between different faiths, different sects, or different civilizations."

"This is a battle between barbaric criminals who seek to obliterate human life and decent people, all in the name of religion," he said. "People that want to protect life and want to protect their religion."

Tillerson told reporters that "the context of all of this, where the president begins his journey here at the home of the Muslim faith under the leadership of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques – this great faith, the Muslims – then to travel to the home of Judaism and then to the great leader of Christianity," reflects Trump's message that it's not about religion.

Tillerson added that he hoped Trump "dispelled the concerns that many might have" about Islamophobia with the speech.

"I think on this trip, I know the entire delegation traveling with the president has gained a much greater appreciation for this region, the rich history, the rich traditions and cultures of this region, and also a much better understanding of the Muslim faith by traveling to this special place, the special place of the two holiest sites. All of this is, I think, useful to us understanding everyone better here, and we hope – we hope people in the Muslim community will make a similar effort to understand the American people’s interest and concerns that they may have," the secretary of State said.

"But I think importantly, out of this speech the president delivered this afternoon, what he said, again, is this fight is ours together. It is not between us. It is ours together. And it’s only together that we will ultimately prevail and that it is not a fight among religions, not a fight between Shia, Sunni, it’s not a fight between Christians, Jews, any of the faiths," he added. "This is a fight of good against evil, and in all of those three great faiths that millions of Americans follow, we are guided by that same tenet. This is what unites us in attacking this evil face of terrorism that has befallen us and has hurt so many around the world."

Al-Jubeir, formerly the longtime ambassador to Washington, said that "unless we are able to move from notions of a clash of civilizations and move towards a partnership among civilizations, we will not be able to eradicate the scourge of terrorism or – which emanates from extremism, and extremism emanates from ignorance."

"People in the Muslim world believe there is enmity towards them in the West, and so they use that to recruit psychopaths who go and murder people, who then increase the negative attitude of people in the West towards Islam. That causes Western countries to take steps that then fuel the cycle in the Islamic world, and also vice versa," the Saudi foreign minister said. "You have extremists in the West who take very bigoted positions or ignorant positions towards the Islamic world which causes them to recruit psychopaths who demands things or try to do things that provoke a reaction in the Islamic world, and the vicious cycle continues unless we move away from this."

"And then if we are able to move away from this, we’re able to isolate the terrorists as mere criminals and psychopaths, and then it becomes a law enforcement matter and we can deal with it much more effectively. The president deserves a lot of credit for taking this step, making his first visit outside the U.S. to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam and Land of the Two Holy Mosques, and then going to Israel and then going to the Vatican to deal with the Jewish world and with the Christian world in order to try to bring the three religions together."

Al-Jubeir added that "evil includes everyone who seeks death and destruction, irrespective of their faith."