After US President Donald Trump has re-tweeted a handful of anti-Muslim videos posted by the deputy leader of the far-right group, Britain First, British Prime Minister Theresa May offered a rare condemnation. However, Trump has doubled down and verbally lashed out May instead.
US President Donald Trump is a polarizing figure in world politics. He has found himself being criticized for his actions and his statements in the past. He has been accused of sexism, misogyny, racism and more. Business leaders like Elon Musk have left councils within the administration due to statements made by Trump. The President has also been criticized by Republicans for failing to forcefully condemn racism in the wake the alt-right rally that took place in Charlottesville in August 2017. Trump later doubled down on his own rhetoric and claimed that there were “fine people” on both sides of the conflict. He has also drawn ire for seemingly equating white supremacist groups to the anti-fascist protestors. Most recently, top athletes like LeBron James have condemned him. He also initiated a travel ban that barred visitors from largely Muslim nations from travelling to the US.
Internationally, Trump has been cut an equally polarizing note. He has reportedly gotten into a yelling match during a heated phone conversation with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. In May 2017, while walking with the NATO leaders during his visit to the alliance's headquarters he pushed aside Dusko Markovic, the prime minister of Montenegro, as he moved to the front of a group of the leaders. He also repeatedly criticized China, North Korea and other world nations. He also repeatedly criticized the NATO military alliance as a candidate.
Britain First is a far-right and ultranationalist British political organization formed in 2011 by former members of the British National Party (BNP). Britain First campaigns primarily against multiculturalism and what it sees as the Islamisation of the United Kingdom, and advocates the preservation of traditional British culture. It has repeatedly been criticized for hate speech and racist rhetoric.
In November 2017, Donald Trump retweeted a handful of anti-Muslim videos posted by the deputy leader of Britain First. They were unverified and purported to show a group of Muslims pushing a boy off a roof. Another claimed to show a Muslim destroying a statue of the Virgin Mary, and a third claimed to show a Muslim immigrant hitting a Dutch boy on crutches. The credibility of the last video was immediately called into question when the Dutch embassy in the US confirmed that the person initiating the violent act in the video was born and raised in Netherlands.
His actions were deemed racist by a number of experts and members of the society on the social media platform. It also evoked a rare condemnation from British Prime Minister, Theresa May. Her spokesperson stated, “Britain First seeks to divide communities by their use of hateful narratives that peddle lies and stoke tensions. They cause anxiety to law-abiding people. British people overwhelmingly reject the prejudiced rhetoric of the far right which is the antithesis of the values this country represents, decency, tolerance and respect.”
Sajid Javid, the only Muslim cabinet minister, also took to Twitter and noted, “So POTUS has endorsed the views of a vile, hate-filled racist organisation that hates me and people like me. He is wrong and I refuse to let it go and say nothing.”
There has been widespread outrage among MPs across the political divide in Britain as a result of Trump’s actions. Tory MP Peter Bone asked Home Secretary Amber Rudd on whether it be prudent for Britain to convince Trump to close his account. He said, “One of the advantages of having such a special relationship with the United States is when a friend tells you you've done something dreadfully wrong, you tend to listen. Wouldn't the world be a better place if the Prime Minister could persuade the President of the United States to delete his Twitter account?” Rudd seemingly agreed by stating, “It's interesting to note my honourable friend's advice regarding Twitter accounts, I'm sure many of us might share his view.” Rudd added that she thought Trump’s re-tweets were wrong however she urged people to remember the "bigger picture" of the close cooperation and intelligence-sharing between the UK and the US which she said had "undoubtedly saved British lives".
The US President meanwhile once again took to Twitter to this time lash out at the British Prime Minister. He stated, “Theresa @theresamay, 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!”
Our assessment is that not only do these re-tweets reinforce harmful notions against the Muslim community, they are threaten US’ so-called special relationship with the UK. There has been a growing chorus of voices urging the President against using his Twitter account.