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British Prime Minister Theresa May said Thursday U.S. President Donald Trump was wrong to retweet anti-Muslim videos from a far-right British group of ultranationalists that she described as “hateful.”
“The fact that we work together does not mean that we’re afraid to say when we think the United States has got it wrong, and be very clear with them,” May said on a visit to Amman. “And I’m very clear that retweeting from Britain First was the wrong thing to do.”
May was echoing her spokesman’s comments Wednesday in the hours after Trump posted three unverified videos purporting to show a “Muslim migrant” beating up a Dutch boy on crutches, a “Muslim” destroying a statue of the Virgin Mary and an “Islamist mob” pushing a teenage boy off a roof and beating him to death.
The Britain First group has described Muslim migration to Britain as a takeover of British Christian society by “foreign infidels” and May said the group runs counter to “common British decency.”
Subsequently, the Netherlands said the Dutch boy’s attacker was born and raised in the Netherlands, the victim is Dutch as well and neither are migrants. The destruction of the Virgin Mary statue was carried out in Syria by an extremist cleric in 2013, while the Islamist mob video was shot in Egypt, also in 2013, showing clashes in the days after the Egyptian military overthrew the government of Mohamed Morsi.
In a Twitter response Trump blasted May’s criticism of his retweet of the videos. “Don’t focus on me,” Trump told the British prime minister, “focus on the destructive Radical Islamic Terrorism that is taking place within the United Kingdom. We are doing just fine!”
May responded, “We take the need to deal with the terrorist threat very seriously.”
Several British lawmakers have called for May to cancel Trump’s planned state visit to Britain, but she said the visit is still on, although no date has been set.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders defended Trump’s posting of the videos, saying, “Whether it’s a real video, the threat is real, and that is what the president is talking about.”
Labor lawmaker David Lammy said Trump “is no ally or friend of ours,” adding the U.S. president is not welcome in Britain.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan also said it is increasingly clear Trump should not be welcomed, and that many in Britain will see his Twitter activity as a betrayal of U.S.-British relations.
“The Prime Minister of our country should be using any influence she and her government claim to have with the president and his administration to ask him to delete these tweets and to apologize to the British people,” Khan said Thursday.
Even normally pro-Trump British politicians criticized Trump for sharing three Twitter posts by Jayda Fransen, the deputy leader of the far-right anti-immigrant group Britain First, which calls for a return of “traditional British values” and an end to “Islamization.”
Fransen and Britain First
Fransen has had several run-ins with police for hate speech as have other leaders of Britain First who have been accused of religious harassment and incitement. Earlier this month, Fransen was found guilty of religiously aggravated harassment after she verbally abused a Muslim woman for wearing a hijab.
She was charged in September with religiously aggravated harassment along with Britain First’s leader, Paul Goldings, for the distribution of inflammatory leaflets in the southern English town of Canterbury and is awaiting trial. In December she is due in court in Northern Ireland to face charges of using threatening and abusive language during a speech she made at an anti-terrorism protest in Belfast.
Britain First, which was founded in 2011 by former members of the British National Party, claims to have 6,000 members and has almost two million “likes” on its Facebook page.
While the backlash grew, Britain First supporters celebrated the presidential retweets. Fransen herself tweeted, “God bless you Trump! God bless America!”, signing off with the abbreviation OCS, meaning Onward Christian Soldiers.