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Theresa May's Weak Words Fall Short Of Calling Out Trump's Bigotry Against Our Mayor Sadiq Khan

06/06/2017 16:42 BST | Updated 06/06/2017 16:51 BST
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Well, we got there in the end. Sort of. It has taken Theresa May two full days to say "I think Donald Trump is wrong in what he said about Sadiq Khan, in relation to the terrorist attacks on London."

A meek, one sentence response that typifies May's approach to tackling divisive rhetoric: lacklustre and feeble.

May's cowardice and lack of political will to call out Trump's hate is yet another example of how bigotry has been mainstreamed in our political and public discourse.

Even now, May's words barely scratch the surface when it comes to addressing Trump's disgraceful and bigoted behaviour towards our Mayor Sadiq Khan, and the wider Islamophobia such rhetoric fuels in the form of hate speech and hate crime in our country.

Just hours after the attacks on Saturday, Donald Trump misquoted our Mayor and tweeted: "At least 7 dead and 48 wounded in terror attack and Mayor of London says there is "no reason to be alarmed!". When corrected and informed that Sadiq Khan was referring to extra police presence on streets, Trump proceeded to say: "Pathetic excuse by London Mayor Sadiq Khan who had to think fast on his 'no reason to be alarmed' statement. MSM [Mainstream media] is working hard to sell it!".

As well as criticising Sadiq Khan, Trump lost no time in using the tragedies in London to advocate for his own Muslim Ban, tweeting: "We need to be smart, vigilant and tough. We need the courts to give us back our rights. We need the Travel Ban as an extra level of safety!".

There is little room to doubt that Trump singled out Sadiq Khan because of the Mayor's personal faith and identity. Targeting Sadiq Khan while simultaneously advocating for the Muslim ban highlights the racism that underlines Trump's accusations. He was effectively saying: "See what I told you? Of course the Muslim mayor failed to confront Islamic extremism?". Sadiq Khan previously stood up to Trump over the Muslim ban, so Trump is wasting no opportunity to bully our Mayor and stigmatize him as a threat and as someone who is sympathetic to terrorists. This is the exact same dog whistle politics endorsed by the Tory party during the Mayoral election campaign.

It is worth noting that in the aftermath of the Manchester bombing, Trump did not see fit to treat the Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham in the same manner. One is left to conclude that this is because Andy Burnham is a white man and is not a Muslim.

For those who question that this is not a racist attack on the Mayor of London - the context, choice of target, and the promotion of Trump's Muslim Travel Ban should put this argument to bed.

Yet still our Prime Minister has not managed to recognise Trump's Islamophobic bullying for what it is.

May refuses to criticise Trump for seeking to gain political capital on his Muslim Ban by conflating Muslims with terrorists on the back of a devastating tragedy in London. Her disingenuous response fails to recognise Trump's weaponisation of our Mayor's faith and identity.

May has spent much of the election campaign harping on about upholding "British values"; it is a shame, then, that she was so unwilling to stand up for these values of equality and decency.

For those who believe that a few tweets from the President has no real life implications for us here in the UK, we say look at the rising Islamophobia, fear and reported hate crime in our country following the terrorist atrocities. Words matter, especially when they come from the President of the United States and the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.

It is also telling that May has made no comment on the surge in hate crime reported by police forces across the country since the atrocities in London and Manchester. Mere hours after the London attack on Saturday a man in Luton was knocked unconscious and called a terrorist in an attack which had him hospitalised; similarly in Manchester a mosque was set alight the day after the Manchester arena attack. These are just two examples of the hundreds of hate crimes reported since the attacks.

We are two days away from an general election in a deeply polarised country. We need a Prime Minister who will confront hate and division head on, especially when this hate is coming from her closest political ally.

We need a Prime Minister who stands up to bigotry.