Trump retweets anti-Mus­lim videos from fringe group

The Columbus Dispatch - - Nation&world - By Cather­ine Lucey and Jill Law­less

WASH­ING­TON — Stok­ing the same anti-Is­lam sen­ti­ments he fanned on the cam­paign trail, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump on Wed­nes­day retweeted a string of in­flam­ma­tory videos from a fringe Bri­tish po­lit­i­cal group pur­port­ing to show vi­o­lence be­ing com­mit­ted by Mus­lims.

The tweets drew a sharp con­dem­na­tion from Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May’s of­fice, which said it was “wrong for the pres­i­dent to have done this.” May spokesman James Slack said the far-right Bri­tain First group seeks to di­vide through its use of “hate­ful nar­ra­tives which ped­dle lies and stoke ten­sions.”

Trump shared the three videos tweeted by Jayda Fransen, deputy leader of the Bri­tish group. It was not clear what drew him to the videos, though one had been shared by con­ser­va­tive com­men­ta­tor Ann Coul­ter the day be­fore.

White House spokes­woman Sarah Huck­abee San­ders said Trump was sim­ply pro­mot­ing border se­cu­rity and sug­gested that ver­i­fy­ing the con­tent was not a top con­cern.

“Whether it’s a real video, the threat is real and that is what the pres­i­dent is talk­ing about,” she said.

The tweets read: “VIDEO: Is­lamist mob pushes teenage boy off roof and beats him to death!” and “VIDEO: Mus­lim De­stroys a Statue of Vir­gin Mary!” and “VIDEO: Mus­lim mi­grant beats up Dutch boy on crutches!”

Bri­tain First op­poses what it calls the “Is­lamiza­tion” of Bri­tain. It has cam­paigned against the con­struc­tion and ex­pan­sion of mosques.

Trump’s retweets gave a wide plat­form to the pre­vi­ously ob­scure group. The videos were each shared more than 10,000 times, and Fransen picked up nearly 10,000 Twit­ter fol­low­ers in the hours fol­low­ing Trump’s retweets. She thanked him on Twit­ter, say­ing “GOD BLESS YOU TRUMP!”

For­mer Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke also wel­comed the videos, tweet­ing that Trump was be­ing “con­demned for show­ing us what the fake news me­dia WON’T. Thank God for Trump! That’s why we love him!”

But con­dem­na­tion from civil rights or­ga­ni­za­tions was swift.

The ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Coun­cil on Amer­i­can-Is­lamic Re­la­tions, Ni­had Awad, said in a state­ment that Trump is “clearly telling mem­bers of his base that they should hate Is­lam and Mus­lims.”

One of the retweeted videos from 2013 showed a rad­i­cal Is­lamist in Egypt throw­ing a 9-year-old boy off a roof. The video was filmed in Egypt days after the over­throw of Is­lamist Pres­i­dent Mo­hammed Morsi by Egypt’s mil­i­tary. The per­pe­tra­tors of the roof vi­o­lence were later sen­tenced to death.

An­other video shows a man — said to be a sup­porter of Syria’s al-Qaida af­fil­i­ate then known as the Nusra Front — smash­ing a statue of the Vir­gin Mary. The video ap­peared on the in­ter­net in Oc­to­ber 2013, in the midst of the Syr­ian civil war, and was re­ported by the Mid­dle East Me­dia Re­search In­sti­tute, MEMRI.

The third video shows one young man at­tack­ing an­other young man on crutches. It was orig­i­nally posted to a Dutch video site in May 2017. Fransen said in her tweet that a “Mus­lim mi­grant beats up Dutch boy on crutches!” But a state­ment from a spokesman for the Dutch pros­e­cu­tion ser­vice Wed­nes­day said the boy was born and raised in the Nether­lands.

The Nether­lands Em­bassy in the United States also weighed in with a tweet, writ­ing: “Facts do mat­ter.”

Fransen has been charged with caus­ing re­li­giously ag­gra­vated ha­rass­ment through leaflets and videos that were dis­trib­uted dur­ing a crim­i­nal trial ear­lier this year. She has sep­a­rately been charged with us­ing “threat­en­ing, abu­sive or in­sult­ing words or be­hav­ior” in a speech she made in North­ern Ire­land in Au­gust. She is cur­rently free on bail.

She was con­victed last year of re­li­giously ag­gra­vated ha­rass­ment and fined after hurl­ing abuse at a Mus­lim woman wear­ing a hi­jab.

The Bri­tish govern­ment re­jected calls from op­po­si­tion law­mak­ers to re­voke Trump’s in­vi­ta­tion to visit. May an­nounced in Jan­uary that he had ac­cepted an in­vi­ta­tion for a state visit, one of the big­gest hon­ors the coun­try can be­stow on for­eign lead­ers. Al­most a year later, no date has been set, and op­po­nents of Trump have vowed to stage large protests if he does come.

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