US President Donald Trump fired back at British Prime Minister Theresa May over her criticism of his retweet of anti-Muslim videos, saying she should focus on terrorism in Britain.
The Twitter handle Trump first included in his tweet was not that of the British leader.
Britain had criticised US President Donald Trump on Wednesday, 29 November, 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 US-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 US 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 US 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 US-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 Retweets Boost Membership, Claims UK Far-Right Group
A British far-right group at the centre of a major diplomatic row between the US and the UK has claimed that President Donald Trump's retweets of their anti-Muslim videos had provided a boost to their membership base.
Britain First, estimated to have a membership of just around 1,000, said it had received hundreds of membership applications in the 24 hours after the US President was seen to endorse three of its videos on Twitter.
We have had hundreds of new membership applications and our organic Facebook reach [number of unique users] has increased by hundreds of thousands.Britain First leader Paul Golding told The Times
British National Party (BNP) has also been gaining supporters at a rate of more than one per minute since the US President's retweets earlier this week.
The group's deputy leader Jayda Fransen had earlier claimed that the sharing of her tweets by Trump amounted to an endorsement and pleaded with the US President to intervene in her forthcoming court case over using threatening and abusive language during an anti-Muslim speech at a rally in Belfast in August.
The 31-year-old, who is on bail for religiously aggravated harassment, said in a video posted online: “On behalf of myself and every citizen of Britain and for every man and woman who has fought and died for us to have freedom of speech, I am appealing to you for your help”.
The videos in question allegedly show an attack on a Dutch boy on crutches by a "Muslim migrant".
The other two, from 2013, showed a Syrian sheikh destroying a statue of the Virgin Mary and a man said to be linked to the Muslim Brotherhood throwing someone from a roof in Egypt.
(The article has been edited for length, with inputs from PTI.)
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