Trump 'wrong' to retweet anti-Muslim videos, says Downing Street

Trump 'wrong' to retweet anti-Muslim videos, says Downing Street
It was wrong for President Trump to retweet videos posted by far-right group, Downing Street says.
4 min read
29 November, 2017
US President sparked controversy after retweeting a British anti-Muslim figurehead [Twitter]
US President Donald Trump was "wrong" to retweet three anti-Muslim videos posted by the deputy head of British far-right group Britain First, Prime Minister Theresa May's spokesman said on Wednesday.

"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," he said.

"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. It is wrong for the president to have done this."

The statement comes after Trump retweeted the deputy leader of a UK-based neo-fascist group. The strongly Islamophobic tweets were first posted by Jayda Fransen, whose anti-Muslim content was shared just days after she was charged over hate speech allegations.

Trump retweeted three of her posts with videos which were clearly published to incite hatred for Muslims. Such incitement has previously been alleged to have inspired xenophobic attacks.

Read also: Trump's retweet madness

One of them purports to show a Muslim beating up a Dutch boy on crutches. 

Another is described as showing an "Islamist mob" pushing a teenager of a rooftop.

The third allegedly depicts a Muslim throwing down and smashing a statue of the Virgin Mary.

The tweets Trump retweeted from Jayda Fransen's account [Twitter]

However, two of the retweeted videos are actually from 2013. 

The video of a bearded man pushing a boy off the roof was filmed in Egypt days after the overthrow of Islamist President Mohamed Morsi by Egypt's military. In the video, a supporter of Morsi is seen roaming the roof of a building in the coastal city of Alexandria, raising a black flag often used by militants.

The video, widely circulated at the time, came at the start of bloody period in Egypt following protests in 2011. Pro-Morsi protesters, enraged by the ousting of the first Islamist and civilian president to be elected to office in Egypt, descended on a rally by opponents in violent protests that also set the tone for months to come.

The military responded with a violent crackdown, including the bloody dispersal of Islamist protests that killed over 1,000 people. The perpetrators of the roof violence were later sentenced to death for killing the boy and another man who were thrown off the roof.

The other video Trump retweeted shows a man – said to be a supporter of Syria's al-Qaeda affiliate then known as the Nusra Front – smashing a blue and white statue of the Virgin Mary.

The video appeared on the internet in October 2013, in the midst of a civil war in Syria, and was reported by the Middle East Media Research Institute, MEMRI, who identified the man as Sheikk Omar Raghba. In the video, he declares that "idols" will no longer be worshipped in the Levant before he smashes the large statue in the Yakubiya village in northwestern Syria.

The third video shows two young men fighting near a river bank. It was originally posted to a Dutch viral video site in May 2017 and picked up by Dutch media the following day.

Two 16-year-old boys were arrested, according to De Telegraaf, and police removed the video. The boy's religion was not included in any of the reports. And yet, in her tweet, Jayda Fransen, the deputy leader of Britain First, wrote: "VIDEO: Muslim migrant beats up Dutch boy on crutches!"

Later on Wednesday, Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the main opposition Labour party responded with the following tweet:

Jayda Fransen was recently charged with "threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour" over an "anti-terrorism" speech in Belfast. She is currently on bail facing four charges of instigating religiously aggravated harassment.

Read more: What British Twitter thinks of Britain First, Donald Trump's new favourite internet thing

Far-right political parties in the UK have disassociated themselves with Britain First because of their extremity.

UKIP, a far-right party in the UK, known for basing electoral campaigns on tackling the "Islamification of Britain" have previously disassociated themselves from Britain First, saying - "on the fringes of our politics are nutters and we don’t want them anywhere near us".

There was widespread outrage in Britain at Trump's retweets, but Fransen acknowledged Trump's retweet's with great appreciation.

"God bless you Trump, God bless America," she said in her responsive tweet.

There is also outrage in the US.

"We can and will expect others to follow his lead, with sometimes deadly consequences," said Farhana Khera, Executive Director of Muslim Advocates, a national legal advocacy and educational organisation working on the frontlines of civil rights to guarantee freedom and justice for Americans of all faiths.

"Hate crimes motivated by anti-Muslim bias are at all-time high, and the president’s words and actions further inflame this violence. Mosques have been burned and bombed, children are bullied, homes are vandalised, and people are attacked. Our country deserves better," Khera added.

"The silver lining to this very dark cloud is that Americans of all backgrounds are standing up for dignity and equality and are waking up to just how much our way of life is under attack by this president. Our country was founded on religious freedom and equality under the law. All Americans must continue to fight to ensure these values are upheld."