Donald Trump’s contentious state visit to the UK should go ahead, but only if the US president promises to visit multicultural British communities, a Muslim MP has urged.
Nadhim Zahawi wrote in a letter to the White House of his “strong discontent” over Trump’s sharing of inflammatory, anti-Islam videos from far-right party Britain First.
He added that the American head of state should opt to spend time among British Muslims in their communities in places like Coventry, Birmingham and Manchester as part of any official trip to the UK.
″[Y]ou would see how our Muslim communities live peaceably alongside others, enrich their local areas and contribute so much to society,” Zahawi wrote.
Trump retweeted three short clips initially promoted by the hate group’s Deputy Leader Jayda Fransen to his 43m followers on Wednesday morning.
The footage was emblazoned with captions including, “Muslim migrant beats up Dutch boy on crutches!” and “Islamist mob pushes teenage boy off roof and beats him to death!”.
The provenance of the videos was quickly established, with at least one of Fransen’s descriptions proving wildly inaccurate.
Zahawi wrote to Trump: “The videos you have chosen to distribute... seek to conflate all Muslim[s] into one skewed and twisted stereotype in the hope of inciting religious hatred towards the Islamic community.”
Touching upon controversial plans for Trump’s State Visit to Britain, Zahawi wrote: “You are soon due to visit the United Kingdom. When you are here, I believe you would find enlightening the experience of visiting our beautiful cities like Coventry, Birmingham, Manchester and London.”
“They are so far removed from the stereotypes that the videos of Britain First try to portray,” he added.
Doubts over visit
Prime Minister Theresa May said of Trump’s retweets through a spokesperson: “It was wrong for the President to have done this.”
The furore raised doubts over Trump’s future visit.
Brendan Cox, husband of slain Labour MP Jo Cox, who was killed by a man shouting “Britain first”, said of the impact on Trump’s future visit: “I think this is the final nail in the coffin, so I don’t think it will happen.”
Trump was officially invited to visit the UK soon after his inauguration in January. The plans were thrown into the long grass after widespread public dismay prompted a million-strong petition against them.
But Downing Street on Wednesday sought to clarify that plans for Trump’s visit “remain in place”.
Chukka Umunna said of No10′s defence: “This is feeble and outrageous. If promoting the propaganda of a racist far right group doesn’t cross the line, what does?”
Trump’s official spokesperson Sarah Huckabee-Sanders told reporters the furore over the content of the videos wasn’t “the point”.
“The threat has to be talked about and that was what the president was doing [by] bringing that up,” she said.
Nadhim Zahawi’s letter to Trump in full
Dear Mr President,
I am writing to register my strong discontent over your decision to retweet three videos posted on Twitter by Jayda Fransen, a convicted racist and the deputy leader of Britain First, an extreme right-wing and hateful political organisation.
The videos you have chosen to distribute to your 43.6 million Twitter followers seek to conflate all Muslims into one skewed and twisted stereotype in the hope of inciting religious hatred toward the Islamic community. Whether the videos are valid or not, the individuals within them do not represent the overwhelming majority of those who adhere to the many forms of the Islamic faith.
Terrorist groups like Daesh work by dehumanising those they seek to destroy, making it possible for their followers to commit the atrocities they do. Both the UK and the USA have worked tirelessly to eradicate such groups in the Middle East, and at home both our countries continue to root out domestic terrorist activity and combat the radicalisation that leads to it.
I fear that your actions today have put in jeopardy some of the hard work done by our state bodies, making it easier for terrorist groups to portray our countries as their enemies and stoking the flames of radicalisation further. This is precisely what groups like Daesh want, and this makes it so much more vital that we do not allow our actions to play into their hands.
You are soon due to visit the United Kingdom. When you are here, I believe you would find enlightening the experience of visiting our beautiful cities like Coventry, Birmingham, Manchester and London. In them, you would see how our Muslim communities live peaceably alongside others, enrich their local areas and contribute so much to society. They are so far removed from the stereotypes that the videos of Britain First try to portray.
In June 2016 a British Member of Parliament, Jo Cox, was viciously murdered by a right-wing extremist as she arrived for an advice surgery she was holding for her constituents. Among other acclamations, the murderer shouted “Britain first” as he attacked Jo, words that correspond to the name of the organisation you have given a platform to on Twitter.
I know you take your role as President very seriously. I therefore urge you to delete the retweets and do all you can in future to resist courses of action that play into the hands of those who seek to destroy us and our way of life.