Muslim American and other activists gathered on Capitol Hill on Nov. 29, 2017, to condemn President Trump's retweets hours earlier of videos that purported to show Muslims acting violently. From left, Ilhan Cagri, a fellow at the Muslim Public Affairs Council; Lakshmi Sridaran, director of national policy and advocacy at South Asian Americans Leading Together; and Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. RNS photo by Sharon Samber

Muslim leaders speak out against Trump’s inflammatory retweets

WASHINGTON (RNS) — Muslim American leaders gathered on Capitol Hill to condemn President Trump's sharing of videos purporting to show Muslims committing violent acts just hours after he posted the images to his Twitter feed.

Americans are “shocked but not surprised” by the president’s actions, said the Council on American-Islamic Relations' national executive director, Nihad Awad, remarking on Trump's Wednesday morning (Nov. 29) retweets.

The retweets, sent to his more than 43 million followers, showcased three videos originally tweeted from the account of the deputy leader of a British anti-immigrant fringe group, Britain First. The group is considered anti-Muslim by many in the country, and its name was shouted by an extremist who gunned down and stabbed a member of Parliament earlier this year. The group condemned the murder.

READ: Trump retweets videos critical of Muslims

Trump’s message incites violence and is a continuation of his pattern of targeting minorities, Awad told Religion News Service. Republicans, he continued, should show leadership by condemning the videos.

“President Trump has infected the Republican Party,” said Awad, who asked Republicans not to “sit idly by while this injustice continues.”

Britain First is a political party condemned as ultranationalist and previously accused of sharing anti-Muslim conspiracy theories. The office of British Prime Minister Theresa May said Wednesday that Trump was wrong to share material from a group that promotes “hateful narratives.”

Hate speech leads to hate crimes, Awad warned, noting that CAIR has received one to two reports of a hate crime every day this year on average. According to FBI statistics, nearly a quarter of religious hate crimes in 2016 were against Muslims, with an increase of almost 20 percent from 2015 to 2016.

Other organizations joined CAIR to condemn Trump’s retweets and call on other politicians to speak out against them.

“Where is the leadership in this country?” asked Ilhan Cagri, a fellow at the Muslim Public Affairs Council. That Trump retweeted the videos shows that he identifies with extremist views, she said. “This is not what a leader should be doing.”

Lakshmi Sridaran, director of national policy and advocacy at South Asian Americans Leading Together, said the real threat comes from the administration itself.

“We must demand better from our president and our democracy,” she said.