Trump's response to the New Zealand massacre highlights his militant history with Muslims


After an armed man made 50 dead in an anti-Muslim massacre in two mosques in New Zealand, President Trump did not condemn the white supremacy exalted by the alleged gunman nor expressed explicit sympathy for Muslims all over the world.

Instead, Trump spent the next few days at the offensive – averaging just over one tweet per hour throughout the weekend while he was decrying various topics, ranging from an unflattering TV coverage to former Republican Senator John McCain. One of his few advocates, White House acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, has come on the airwaves with an unusual statement that "the president does not want to see it." is not a white supremacist.

At a larger planning meeting, officials briefly considered organizing a round table gathering persecuted religious minorities – Muslim, Christian and Jewish – but the idea was ruled out when the group decided to not be able to organize such an event in a timely manner, a White House official said.

On Monday morning, Trump still had not listened to the call of New Zealand premier Jacinda Ardern – with whom he spoke on the phone on Friday – to offer his country "sympathy and love for all Muslim communities ". victim of tragedy, gripping on Twitter: "The Fake News Media is working overtime to blame me for the horrible attack in New Zealand."

Trump's lukewarm response to the New Zealand massacre highlighted the president's dense and combative relationship with Islam and Muslims, which goes back at least to his campaign. Throughout his presidential and presidential candidacy, Trump has made statements and promulgated policies that many Muslim Americans and others find offensive and overwhelming at best – and dangerous and Islamophobic at worst.

In a long manifesto, the recognized shooter, an Australian white man, described Trump as "a symbol of renewed white identity and common goals" and seemed to echo the US President's uncompromising rhetoric of 39, immigration, describing immigrants like "Invaders on our land."

In response to a question posed by a reporter on Friday, Trump said he did not see white nationalism as a growing threat in the world – despite evidence to the contrary. "I do not really know," he says. "I think it's a small group of people who have very, very serious problems, I suppose."

In a report published in February by the Southern Poverty Law Center, 1,020 hate groups in the United States in 2018 – an all-time high – as well as an increase in the number of deaths related to the radical right, with white supremacists at United States and Canada killing at least 40 people.

"What I saw on the right – people who were not so committed to the political system until Trump arrived, really take his language seriously," he said. said Mohamed Elibiary, Republican and Muslim in Texas, who served as the US government's homeland security expert. "It promotes this nostalgic view of America. It always makes us look back. "

The White House was quick to reject any suggestion that Trump be associated with the alleged massacre or attacker. In an interview with "Fox & Friends" on Monday morning, Kellyanne Conway, adviser to the president, urged the public and the media to read the entire manifesto, noting that Trump's name was mentioned only "once" .

Mulvaney, who participated in CBS's "Face the Nation" show Sunday, also rejected "this idea that whenever something serious happens all over the world, people who do not like it Donald Trump seem to be picking on Donald Trump. "

However, the president has long denigrated Muslims and other minorities, while simultaneously refusing to strongly condemn white supremacy and violent nationalism. After a white supremacy rally in Charlottesville in 2017 left a woman dead, for example, Trump held a freewheeling press conference in which he stated that "both sides" were to blame.

"In the Republican Party, we already had people who loved to play football with fanaticism, but when it came to serious moments, they tightened their language, they would be careful not to be seen or misinterpreted as being Bigot, says Elibiary: "Traditionally, presidents have not had to complain about white identity grievances, at least not in my lifetime, I've never seen a president try to tackle these critical issues that we oppose. "

Trump fueled his political rise in part with birtherism – the false and racist theory that President Barack Obama was not born in the United States. The rest of his campaign, as well as his presidency, were victims of trafficking in language that many Muslims found offensive.

At a public meeting held in New Hampshire in September 2015, for example, Trump pledged to expel from the United States all Syrian refugees, the majority of whom are Muslims, because they "Could be the Islamic State", a reference to the Islamic State. The following month, in a television interview, Trump said he would "definitely consider" the possibility of closing mosques. in the countryside. And the following month, Trump had the idea to create a database of all Muslims in the United States.

Also during the campaign, he repeated his false claim that during the September 11 attacks he saw the New Jersey Arabs applaud when the Twin Towers collapsed. When a man alleging allegiance to the Islamic State killed 49 people in a Orlando disco in 2016, Trump called for vigilance and did not delay in praising his own hard position .

"Enjoy the congratulations for being right about radical Islamic terrorism," he said. wrote on Twitter, using a controversial term for terrorism perpetrated by Muslims.

Trump may have also proposed a ban on all Muslims seeking to enter the country.

Once in office, Trump continued his incendiary rhetoric – continuing to use the term "radical Islamic terrorism," for example – and his actions. One of his first acts as President was the announcement of a temporary travel ban imposed on nationals of seven Muslim-majority countries, a decision that caused confusion and was challenged in court for reasons constitutional. The Supreme Court finally upheld a revised version of the policy.

A former senior administration official said Trump often associated Muslims with terrorism and suppressed terrible Muslim terror attacks, even in private. "He thinks, and sometimes says, that Muslims are invading Europe," said this person.

This former manager, as well as a second person, said that they had never heard Trump use a pejorative term to refer to Muslims privately. But they said that many of his political calculations are based on how his followers, whom he often calls "my people" or "the base," will see a problem. The two people spoke under cover of anonymity to discuss private conversations.

Critics say Trump's handling of the terrorist attack in New Zealand also follows a familiar pattern: the president has often seemed to want to highlight the attacks and hate crimes perpetrated by Muslims, but he often been slower and less energetic when Muslims are victims.

The thought behind Trump's comments and silences on the subject of Islam is opaque. Unlike previous presidents, Trump has shut down much of the formal denominational infrastructure that has allowed a large number of religious leaders to advise the White House on topics ranging from church issues to foreign policy. The main American Muslim organizations say that the government essentially ended the dialogue and that there is no regular contact between the White House and the American Muslim leaders.

Oussama Jammal, secretary general of the American Council of Muslim Organizations, a coordinating group, said Monday that the lack of communication from the White House stood out clearly compared to previous administrations. Until what Trump, he said, the council and many high-profile groups met regularly with the State Department on various issues.

"He's closing the doors," said Jammal. "We tried, we said," Regardless of what the candidate of the time, Trump, said or whatever he said as president, whatever our differences, we would like to meet him, we would like to sit down to learn more about Muslim Americans, what we do, how much we have worked with previous administrations. We must not love one another, but we must communicate. "

Trump's often combative stance towards Muslims and Islam, as well as his more discreet response to acts of white nationalism, is reflected in public opinion about him. A poll conducted in 2017 by the Pew Research Center revealed that 68% of American Muslims said Trump had worried them. A quinnipiace poll conducted in July 2018 also revealed that nearly half of the voters thought Trump was racist.

Following the New Zealand massacre, Trump seemed to want to change the subject. After a tweet Friday expressing its "warmest sympathy and best wishes" to the people of New Zealand – and short a statement denouncing "the monstrous terrorist attacks" that turned "sacred places of worship" into "scenes of vicious murders" – the president largely devoted his weekend to personal grievances.

Mostly alone in the White House on Saturday and Sunday, the president only left the compound for about an hour to attend church and had little time, according to current and former officials. Instead, Trump sent over 50 tweets, promulgating conspiracy theories about Britain, touting a revival of "Saturday Night Live," criticizing General Motors for its decision to close a car factory. Ohio and attacking McCain's academic credentials and integrity.

Trump also sent three missives to support Jeanine Pirro, the Fox News host who was suspended after being asked about Patriotism's representative Ilhan Omar (D-Min.) Because the Muslim legislator wears a hijab.

In addition, the president called on the allies to "evacuate all weekend," said a person who spoke to Trump. A series of frustrations was in his mind, said the person: the 12 Republican Senators who voted with the Democrats to oppose his declaration of national emergency on the southern border; what he considered unfair coverage on Fox News; what he alleged was McCain's role in providing a controversial case to the FBI to Russia; and the scheduled time for the publication of a report on the interference of Russia in the 2016 presidential election drafted by the special advocate Robert S. Mueller III.

Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (RS.C.), who spoke to Trump on Sunday afternoon, said the president was mainly focused on his recently failed talks with the North Korean leader and his statement of responsibility. emergency at the border – especially the republican reaction. The president also complained about McCain and the case, Graham said.

Trump briefly mentioned the New Zealand shooter in their one hour conversation. "The only thing he said was, how could anyone be so cruel?" Said Graham.

Overall, Graham concluded, "He was actually in a good position."

Michelle Boorstein contributed to this report.

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