US President Donald Trump has brushed off British Prime Minister Theresa May’s criticism of his online support of a far right group, suggesting she defends the United Kingdom from “Radical Islamic Terrorism” instead.
The US president on Wednesday retweeted a series of anti-Muslim Twitter video posts by Jayda Fransen, deputy leader of the far-right Britain First movement.
“@Theresa_May, don’t focus on me, focus on the destructive Radical Islamic Terrorism that is taking place within the United Kingdom. We are doing just fine!” Trump tweeted late on Wednesday.
The outburst came after May’s office said Britain First “seeks to divide communities through their use of hateful narratives, which peddle lies and stoke tensions”.
“British people overwhelmingly reject the prejudiced rhetoric of the far right, which is the antithesis of the values that this country represents: decency, tolerance and respect,” the Downing Street said in the statement reported by UK media.
“It is wrong for the president to have done this.”
.@Theresa_May, don’t focus on me, focus on the destructive Radical Islamic Terrorism that is taking place within the United Kingdom. We are doing just fine!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 30, 2017
The US leader shared three videos by Fransen, purporting to show Muslims carrying out beatings or acts of vandalism.
Fransen, who in 2016 was convicted by a British court for harassing a woman wearing a hijab, is banned by court order from entering mosques in the UK.
Together with other activists from the far-right group, Fransen took part in regular mosque “invasions”.
Thomas Mair, who killed British MP Jo Cox in a far-right attack, is reported to have shouted the group’s name after stabbing the Labour Party politician.
One of the tweets shared by Trump shows a video of a teenage boy beating up another teen boy on crutches. The incident happened in May this year in the Dutch town of Monnickendam.
After the video was posted on Dutch social media in May, police arrested two Dutch teens from Monnickendam and neighbouring town, Edam-Volendam, in connection to the beating. It was never confirmed that the individual in the video was Muslim or a migrant.
Trump’s decision to share the videos was sharply condemned by rights groups.
“By his unconscionable and irresponsible actions this morning, President Trump is clearly telling members of his base that they should hate Islam and Muslims,” said Nihad Awad, national executive director of the Council of American-Islamic Relations.
The Muslim Council of Britain urged the country’s authorities to distance themselves from Trump and his comments.
The Muslim Council of Britain comments on President Trump sharing anti-Muslim videos from the far right pic.twitter.com/rYOlUkLxUj
— MCB (@MuslimCouncil) November 29, 2017
The American Civil Liberties Union also said that “Trump’s prejudice against Muslims reveals itself at every turn”.
Trump's prejudice against Muslims reveals itself at every turn—with today's tweets meant to gin up fear and bias, with statements like "Islam hates us," and with every version of the Muslim ban.
— ACLU (@ACLU) November 29, 2017
Many others on social media also voiced anger that the holder of such a high office would share material from a far-right activist.
“Trump sharing Britain First. Let that sink in. The President of the United States is promoting a fascist, racist, extremist hate group whose leaders have been arrested and convicted. He is no ally or friend of ours. (Donald Trump) you are not welcome in my country and my city,” British Labour Party MP David Lammy tweeted.
Brian Klass, an academic at the London School of Economics, wrote: “Here in the UK, Britain First is (correctly) seen as a neo-Fascist hate group. They are beyond the fringe extremists. Their leaders have been arrested and convicted for inciting hatred, including the horrible racist woman that Trump re-tweeted multiple times.”
Donald Trump has been retweeting Britain First leader and rampant anti-Muslim activist Jayda Fransen. See how her online following has spiked following recent terror attacks: https://t.co/Zx2aj0KzZk pic.twitter.com/5I8llyLm4M
— HOPE not hate (@hopenothate) November 29, 2017
Wednesday’s retweets are not the first time Trump has shared or made comments that are considered racist or discriminatory.
On Monday, speaking to a group of Native American veterans, Trump referred to US Senator Elizabeth Warren who claims Native American ancestry as “Pocahontas”, after a historic Native American figure.
Trump also campaigned on a platform of banning Muslim entry to the US and the surveillance of mosques in the country.
Shortly after taking office, he signed an executive order banning nationals from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the US. After court challenges, the ban was revised and now includes restrictions on citizens from six Muslim-majority countries, as well as North Korea and Venezuela.