Yesterday, President Donald J. Trump retweeted anti-Muslim propaganda videos from Britain First, an extremist nationalist group whose leaders have been convicted of hate crimes.
The tweets—which called the videos “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!”—initially sparked controversy because of their inflammatory anti-Muslim sentiment. Then research revealed that the tweets were not just incendiary but inaccurate: the so-called Muslim migrant was neither a Muslim nor a migrant.
Trump’s spreading of fake news is bad enough. What’s worse is the anti-Muslim animus, and the poor judgment, that his tweets reveal. It shouldn’t have to be said, but the President of the United States should not be retweeting anti-Muslim propaganda videos that spark hostility toward Muslim Americans based on their religion.
These tweets are especially disturbing given that hate crimes against religious minorities, especially Muslims and Jews, have been increasing since Trump began his presidential campaign and gained the support of white nationalists by promising a Muslim ban. Although Trump himself is not explicitly inciting violence against minorities, it would be foolish to think that his campaign promises and rhetoric about how “Islam hates us” haven’t fueled anti-Muslim extremism.
Despite all this, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders defended the President’s tweets, even going so far as to suggest that regardless of whether the videos are fake, Muslims pose a “threat.”
“I’m not talking about the nature of the video,” she said. “I think you’re focusing on the wrong thing. The threat is real and that is what the president is talking about.”
The Muslim ban is unconstitutional and we will continue fighting it.
Later, when asked whether Trump thinks “Muslims are a threat,” as Sanders said, White House deputy press secretary Raj Shah responded, “The president has addressed these issues with the travel order.”
That response, that the policy is designed to address a perceived threat from Muslims, is just one more piece of evidence that Trump’s “travel order” is really a Muslim ban, as we’ve been arguing to the courts—with success—all year.
This comment from the White House flies in the face of the administration’s own legal defense of the Muslim ban, which it dubs a “travel ban” that’s based on “national security.” Yet Shah’s statement acknowledges what Muslim Americans—as well as the President’s fervent supporters—have known all along: that the so-called travel ban is the Muslim ban that Trump promised while campaigning, and that it’s designed to exclude people based on their religious beliefs.
Our allies at Muslim Advocates, one of our partners in fighting the Muslim ban, released a statement criticizing Trump’s actions and mentioning that his retweets contribute to an unsafe environment for the Muslim community.
“President Trump has made demonizing our community and an entire religion a centerpiece of his presidency. He’s rolled back our rights, embraced hate groups, and incited bigotry throughout his first year in office,” said Farhana Khera, executive director of Muslim Advocates. “The result: a country that’s less safe for all of us, and American Muslims in particular.”
Similarly, the executive director of the Council of American-Islamic Relations, Nihad Awad, said Trump’s retweets signal that he is “clearly telling members of his base that they should hate Islam and Muslims.”
Religious freedom is about fairness. Singling people out for discrimination because of their religious beliefs is wrong. The Trump administration’s discriminatory policies and rhetoric are harmful, and so we stand with Muslims and religious minorities and are fighting the ban in court.
No one should face discrimination, feel unsafe, or endure harassment because of their religious beliefs—or lack thereof. At Americans United, we will continue to advocate for equality for all religious and nonreligious groups. We welcome people of all faiths and none to join us.