President Donald Trump used three tweeted videos to highlight the hostility of Islam’s ideas towards non-Muslims — prompting a huge pushback by progressives who focused on the process, not the message.
The first video showed a Muslim youth being thrown to his death by Islamic activists during 2013 anti-government rioting in Cairo, Egypt. The rioting took place after the military removed Egypt’s Islamic government, which was controlled by the Egypt-based Muslim Brotherhood. The alleged murderer, Mahmoud Ramadan, was hanged in 2015
A second video shows Muslim destroying a Christian statue deemed by Muslims to be a false idol. Islamic law considers Allah to be the only deity and it bars worship of deceased people. The video ends with the Muslim calling for “Takbir,” an affirmation of Islamic faith. He gets the orthodox response, “Allahu Akbar,” meaning “Allah is Supreme,” which also means that Allah is the single deity supreme over all others, including Mary, the mother of Jesus.
The remaining video is widely described as a fake. It shows a normal Dutch youth — not a Muslim — attacking another Dutch youth. “The perpetrator was not a Muslim, let alone a migrant, but simply a Dutchman,” said a translated statement on the website which published the video.
Trump retweeted the videos from the “Britain First” group, which is a considered extreme in the United Kingdom. A spokesman for the Prime Minister said the group spreads “hateful narratives which peddle lies and stoke tensions.”
“The reaction is that he is endorsing a far-right group, but they describe every group that opposes jihad terror as ‘far right,'” said Robert Spencer, the author of several best-selling books on Islam and also the operator of the JihadWatch website. Trump “is not endorsing the group — he is calling attention to Muslim persecution of Christians and to the brutality of some Muslims in Islamic countries.”
In a press conference aboard Air Force One en route to St. Louis, Raj Shah, the White House principal deputy press secretary, was hit with a swarm of questions about the source of the videos, not about the aggressive doctrines in Islam:
Q: How did those tweets come to his attention?
Shah: Look, we are not going to be focusing on process. I know you guys want to. We are going to be focusing on the issues.
Q: Why is the president retweeting a far-right, anti-Muslim group that’s been condemned?
Shah: Again, we’re going to be focusing on the issues that are being raised, which is safety and security for the American people. We’re talking about extreme vetting policies, ensuring that individuals that come to the United States do not pose either a public safety or terrorism threat. And the other measures that we want to take – for example, ending the visa lottery system that allows individuals to come to the United States, and replacing it with a merit-based system. Remember the eight individuals who were killed in New York City last month, the killer, the terrorist came in under the visa lottery system. So the president is going to continue talking about these issues because they’re important for the safety and security of this country
Q: Why tweet videos from these groups?
Shah: A lot of folks want to focus on the videos. We want to focus on the issues. It’s about safety. It’s about security. It’s about ensuring that individuals that come to the United States don’t pose a public safety or terrorism threat.
One question was asked about the threat from Muslims, prompting the press secretary to highlight the difference between individual Muslims and the states which support Islamic jihad:
Q; Does the president feel that Muslims are a threat to the United States?
Shah: No, look, the president has addressed these issues with the travel order and he issued earlier this year, and the companion proclamation. There are plenty of Muslim-majority nations whose citizens can come to the United States without travel restrictions. Those that pose public safety or terrorism threats, to our worldwide security review that was overseen by the Department of Homeland Security, is why there were certain travel restrictions put in place.
The videos marked a sharp break from the ‘Islam means peace’ mantra pushed by President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama. In 2001, for example, just after 19 Islamic militants murdered 3,000 Americans in New York and Washington D.C., Bush visited a mosque and stood alongside Islamic activists.
Maggie Haberman, at the New York Times, assumed that Trump’s criticism would antagonize all Muslims.
After 9/11, George W. Bush urged tolerance. Today, POTUS tweets antagonized an entire religion.
— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) November 29, 2017
“He is not shaming all Muslims,” said Spencer. “Any Muslim who is against jihad terror and against Sharia oppression should be on his side.”
Other progressives portrayed the criticism as “prejudice,” and did not focus on the contents of Islamic doctrines, such the claim that Allah is supreme.
Trump's prejudice against Muslims reveals itself at every turn—with today's tweets meant to gin up fear and bias, with statements like "Islam hates us," and with every version of the Muslim ban.
— ACLU (@ACLU) November 29, 2017
— Bloomberg Politics (@bpolitics) November 29, 2017
President Trump shared videos supposedly portraying Muslims committing acts of violence on his Twitter, images that are likely to fuel anti-Islam sentiments https://t.co/zGX9hdz3fV pic.twitter.com/QndlBgs6Dr
— NYT Politics (@nytpolitics) November 29, 2017
I have not seen any Muslim spokesmen say ‘There is a problem [in Islam] we need to deal with.’ They are all just criticizing Trump … [President Barack] Obama did everything he could to whitewash the image of Islam — Trump is calling attention to atrocities that are committed in the name of name of Islam.
[President Ronald] Reagan had the courage to say to [Soviet leader Mikhail] Gorbachev ‘Tear down this [Berlin] Wall!’ when no-one else dared to challenge the Soviet Union, and Trump is behaving in the same manner… [This] could change the conversation and would bring out in the open the oppression we are not allowed to speak to… [Now] we’re stigmatized and demonized as ‘Islamophobes’ for talking about it.
When critics denounced the message because of the one false video, the White House spokesman responded by saying “whether it is a real video, the threat is real. His goal is to promote strong border security and strong national security.”