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Asia Today ISSN 1861-4604 Sunday, May 27, 2018

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Trump's Twitter frenzy souring ties between U.S. and U.K.

retweeting a series of inflammatory anti-Muslim videos

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WASHINGTON, U.S. - The U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday sparked global outrage after retweeting a series of inflammatory anti-Muslim videos posted by an ultranationalist British group.

Trump’s retweeted videos that were originally posted by the deputy leader of far-right Britain First and the ultranationalist British lawmaker, Jayda Fransen.

The videos portrayed Muslims committing acts of violence on Twitter and were titled, ‘Muslim migrant beats up Dutch boy on crutches!’ ‘Muslim destroys a Statue of Virgin Mary!’ and ‘Islamist mob pushes teenage boy off roof and beats him to death!’

However, Trump’s actions caused global outrage and earned a sharp rebuke even from the U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May.

The British Prime Minister released a statement, saying, "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. 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."

While initially embracing the U.S. president, partly in the hope of a rapid post-Brexit trade deal, May’s comments become arguably her strongest criticism of Trump since he took office in January. 

While initially remaining silent about the criticism he drew from May, Trump soon responded via Twitter to May, saying, "Theresa May, 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!"

The exchange attracted even more attention because Trump addressed the wrong Twitter user, via tagging, on his first attempt.

Trump issued an amended tweet with the correct handle about 20 minutes later.

Meanwhile, Trump’s move to share the anti-Muslim Twitter posts by Britain First gave the far-right extremist group the biggest publicity boost ever.

Britain First was founded in 2011 and is a spin-off of the British National Party which enjoyed limited electoral success between 2000 and 2010 as it edged away from its neo-Nazi roots.

The group has an estimated 1,000 members and bolsters its anti-Islamic, anti-immigration agenda with Christian symbolism, mixing the spectre of the uncontrolled Islamisation of the U.K. with references to the crusades. 

Defending the President’s move late on Wednesday, the White House Press Secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, declared that the facts did not matter, and that even if the description of the video being disseminated by right-wing extremists and Trump was false "the threat is real.”

However, the retweeted videos managed to cause a diplomatic incident.

With one of the posts retweeted by Trump shows an attack on a Dutch teenager on crutches, allegedly by Muslim immigrants, the video has been discredited by Dutch observers.

Late on Wednesday, the Dutch embassy in the U.S. responded via a tweet saying, “@realDonaldTrump Facts do matter. The perpetrator of the violent act in this video was born and raised in the Netherlands. He received and completed his sentence under Dutch law."

The Twitter frenzy crowned one of the most wayward days yet of Trump’s presidency.

Trump not only drew criticism from different countries, but from his own too. 

Following the incident, the Washington-insider news website Politico quoted two unnamed White House aides as voicing concern that Twitter, "allowed the president to continue accessing fringe websites and viewing racist videos simply by scanning his 'mentions'."

Politico even said in its report that it noted that Trump's racist tweets on Wednesday were sent before 7am, when his aides normally have their first chance to consult with him about the day's news and events.

Trump, who made Twitter a key tool of his campaign, has since becoming president successfully resisted attempts by senior aides to have him give up use of the micro-blogging website. 

Many in the White House had hoped that he would stop using Twitter after John Kelly was appointed White House chief of staff in July.

During the 2016 U.S. Presidential election campaign, Trump called for "a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States,” saying he was raising security issues.

Upon becoming the President, Trump has issued executive orders banning entry to some citizens of several Muslim-majority countries, although courts have partially blocked the measures from taking effect.

 

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