Trump retweets posts from Britain First deputy leader; Praised by former KKK leader David Duke
WASHINGTON/LONDON — Nov. 29, 2017: Britain criticised U.S. President Donald Trump today after he retweeted anti-Islam videos originally posted by a leader of a far-right British fringe party who was convicted earlier this month of abusing a Muslim woman.
The White House defended Trump’s retweeting of the videos, as criticism poured in from U.S.-based Muslim advocacy groups and the Anti-Defamation League.
Jayda Fransen, deputy leader of the anti-immigration Britain First group, posted the videos which she said showed a group of people who were Muslims beating a teenage boy to death, battering a boy on crutches and destroying a Christian statue.
Trump’s decision to retweet the videos prompted criticism from both sides of the Atlantic, with some British lawmakers demanding an apology and U.S. Muslim groups saying it was incendiary and reckless.
“It is wrong for the president to have done this,” the spokesman for British Prime Minister Theresa May said.
“Britain First seeks to divide communities through their use of hateful narratives which peddle lies and stoke tensions. They cause anxiety to law-abiding people.”
Reuters was unable to immediately verify the videos and Fransen herself said they had come from various online sources which had been posted on her social media pages.
“I’m delighted,” Fransen, who has 53,000 Twitter followers, told Reuters, saying it showed the U.S. president shared her aim of raising awareness of issues such as Islam.
“What we saw today is one of many videos that is circulating on anti-Muslim hate websites,” said Ilhan Cagri with the U.S.-based Muslim Public Affairs Council.
“It is years-old and simply aims to breed fear for Muslims and Islam and breed violence. It has nothing to do with the
practice of Islam itself.”
As a candidate, Trump called for a Muslim ban and, as president, has issued executive orders banning entry to some citizens of multiple countries, although courts have partially blocked the measures from taking effect.
“Look, I’m not talking about the nature of the video,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told reporters. “The threat is real and that’s what the president is talking about is the need for national security, the need for military spending, and those are very real things. There’s nothing fake about that.”
The White House repeatedly refused to be drawn into the content of the videos or whether Trump was aware of the source of the tweets, instead pivoting to the line that he was raising issues concerning the security of Americans.
Trump’s promotion of the unverified videos contrasts with the way he often criticizes mainstream U.S. media, lambasting some outlets for fake news when they air segments he regards as being against him.
“A lot of folks want to focus on the videos. We want to focus on the issues. It’s about safety. It’s about security.
It’s about ensuring that individuals who come into the United States don’t pose a public safety or terrorism threat,” White House spokesman Raj Shah told reporters aboard Air Force One.
The Anti-Defamation League said the retweets would only encourage extremists and anti-Muslim bigots in the United States and abroad who exploit the propaganda value.
“Such content is the engine that fuels extremist movements and will embolden bigots in the U.S. who already believe the president is a fellow traveler,” the ADL said in a statement.
Ban on Islam
Britain First is a peripheral political party which wants to end all immigration and bring in a comprehensive ban on Islam, with anyone found to be promoting the religion’s ideology to be deported or imprisoned.
The group, which rarely garners any media attention but attracts a few hundred protesters to its regular street
demonstrations, states on its website it is a loyalist movement. Critics say it is simply racist.
Fransen was fined earlier this month after being found guilty of religiously aggravated harassment for shouting abuse at a Muslim woman wearing a hijab.
Last week, she was charged by the police in Northern Ireland with using threatening, abusive or insulting words in a speech at a rally in Belfast in August.
Along with the group’s leader, she was also charged in September with causing religiously aggravated harassment over the distribution of leaflets and posting online videos during a court trial involving a number of Muslim men accused and later convicted of rape.
Politicians in Britain condemned Trump, with Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the opposition Labour Party, describing his tweets as “abhorrent, dangerous and a threat to our society.”
U.S. civil rights and Islamic organisations said the post amounted to an incitement to violence against U.S. Muslims.
“These are actions one would expect to see on virulent anti-Muslim hate sites, not on the Twitter feed of the president of the United States,” Nihad Awad, national executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the largest U.S. Muslim civil rights organisation, said in a statement.
David Duke, a former Ku Klux Klan leader, praised Trump. “He’s condemned for showing us what the fake news media won’t,” Duke wrote on Twitter. “Thank God for Trump! That’s why we love him!”
Fransen, who used similar language to thank Trump, said the president’s retweets showed his outrage at her treatment by the news media and the authorities.
“The important message here is Donald Trump has been made aware of the persecution and prosecution of a political leader in Britain for giving what has been said by police to be an anti-Islamic speech,” she said.
“He (Trump) stands for free speech and he won’t be deterred by any petty left-leaning journalist in Britain saying he
shouldn’t be retweeting any individual.”