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Donald Trump risked re-igniting questions about his white nationalist sympathies after he retweeted a series of posts from a far-right British group containing scenes of alleged violence by Muslims.
The US president on Wednesday reposted three tweets from the account of Jayda Fransen, deputy leader of Britain First, a far-right UK group.
Mr Trump provided no commentary on the tweets, two of which contain videos purporting to show acts of violence by Muslims against individuals. The other showed someone destroying a Christian statue.
British politicians reacted with anger. Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the opposition Labour party, urged Theresa May’s government to “condemn far-right retweets by Donald Trump,” adding that they were “abhorrent, dangerous and a threat to our society”.
Caroline Lucas, a Green MP, said: “@theresa_may must publicly condemn him immediately. We cannot stand by and watch @realDonaldTrump spew this hate.”
The government declined to make an immediate statement on the issue but said a statement would follow later. But it comes at a particularly sensitive time for Ms May. The UK prime minister is on a trip to the Middle East and has previously been criticised for her close relationship with the US president.
A planned state visit to the UK by Mr Trump has been delayed until next year at the earliest, and 1.9m people have signed a petition calling for it to be cancelled.
Piers Morgan, the television presenter who has been a prominent defender of the US president in the UK, urged Mr Trump to “please STOP this madness & undo your retweets”. He called Britain First, a “bunch of disgustingly racist far-right extremists”.
Fransen was convicted last year of religiously aggravated harassment after she launched a tirade at a Muslim woman on the streets of Luton. In mid-November she was arrested and charged for using “threatening, abusive and insulting words or behaviour” after giving a speech in Belfast in August. She will appear in court in mid-December.
Britain First applauded Mr Trump, posting on Fransen’s Twitter account: “The president of the United States, Donald Trump, has retweeted three of deputy leader Jayda Fransen’s twitter videos! Donald Trump himself has retweeted these videos and has around 44 million followers! God bless you Trump! God bless America!”
In the commentary provided by Fransen on one of the videos retweeted by the US president, it read: “Muslim migrant beats up Dutch boy on crutches!”, while in another it said “Islamist mob pushes teenage boy off roof and beats him to death!” The other video shows a man destroying a Christian religious statue with the commentary: “Muslim destroys a statue of Virgin Mary!”
Anne Coulter, a Trump supporter and rightwing media pundit, had previously posted one of the same videos on her Twitter feed on Tuesday.
The veracity or origin of the videos could not be verified. However, by retweeting them, Mr Trump has brought attention back to his views on Islam and race.
The US president has been criticised for proposing a ban on travellers from several Muslim-majority nations, although the administration has denied that the ban is religion-based. Comments Mr Trump made in August following a far-right march in Charlottesville, Virginia, in which he condemned violence on “both sides”, were seen by critics as shifting some blame away from far-right groups.
Britain First was founded by former members of the British National party, another far-right organisation, in 2011. It has become known for public protests against what it sees as the “Islamisation” of the UK.
In December 2016, the UK government banned National Action, a neo-Nazi group, the first British far-right organisation to be outlawed since the second world war.