May, Welby slam Trump for 'Britain First' retweets

The Archbishop of Canterbury has urged Donald Trump to remove his three retweets of anti-Muslim posts by the deputy leader of the far-right group Britain First, pointing out that 'God calls us as Christians to love our neighbour'.

Justin Welby's statement, posted on Twitter last night, came as a spokesperson for the Prime Minister, Theresa May, branded the retweets 'wrong' and international outcry over them escalated.

ReutersArchbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby

However, Trump hit back at May, tweeting: 'Don't focus on me, focus on the destructive Radical Islamic Terrorism that is taking place within the United Kingdom.'

Archbishop Welby said: 'It is deeply disturbing that the President of the United States has chosen to amplify the voice of far-right extremists. Britain First seeks to divide communities and intimidate minorities, especially our Muslim friends and neighbours. Britain First does not share our values of tolerance and solidarity.

'God calls us as Christians to love our neighbour and seek the flourishing of all in our communities, societies and nations. I join the urgent call of faith groups and others for President Trump not just to remove these tweets, but to make clear his opposition to racism and hatred in all forms.'

His statement was retweeted by the Foreign Office minister Alistair Burt among thousands of others, though the Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, who has repeatedly defended Trump in recent months, merely denounced Britain First as 'hateful' but failed to mention the US President.

A spokesperson for Downing Street said: 'It is wrong for the President to have done this.'

However, asked if the Trump's scheduled state visit to Britain would still take place, despite the tweets, the spokesman said: 'The United States is one of our oldest and closest allies. An invitation for a state visit has been extended and accepted. Further details will announced in due course.'

Sajid Javid, the local government secretary, who is Muslim, tweeted: 'So POTUS has endorsed the views of a vile, hate-filled racist organisation that hates me and people like me. He is wrong and I refuse to let it go and say nothing.'

Tom Tugendhat, the Conservative chair of the foreign affairs committee of MPs who served as an army officer in Afghanistan and Iraq, wrote: 'I went to war alongside courageous @USArmy to fight extremism, not promote it. It's not ok to ignore vile racism and worse to back it. #leadershipmatters.'

And the Republican US senator Orrin Hatch of Utah, who met May at Downing Street last week to discuss terrorism threats to both countries, tweeted: '@theresa_may is one of the great world leaders, I have incredible love and respect for her and for the way she leads the United Kingdom, especially in the face of turbulence.'

Sky NewsTheresa May shakes hands with US President Donald Trump

The row began yesterday when Trump retweeted three videos showing Muslims in a bad light posted by the deputy leader of the far-right group Britain First, Jayda Fransen, who has been convicted of religiously aggravated harassment.

Trump, who has 43.5 million followers on Twitter, retweeted three separate posts from Fransen, which all included unverified videos. One purportedly showed a group of Muslims pushing a boy off a roof, another claimed to show a Muslim destroying a statue of the Virgin Mary and another appeared to show immigrants hitting a Dutch boy on crutches.

Fransen was found guilty last November of religiously aggravated harassment after she verbally abused a Muslim woman wearing a hijab.

She responded to the retweets from the Trump account with glee, writing: 'THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, DONALD TRUMP, HAS RETWEETED THREE OF DEPUTY LEADER JAYDA FRANSEN'S TWITTER VIDEOS! DONALD TRUMP HIMSELF HAS RETWEETED THESE VIDEOS AND HAS AROUND 44 MILLION FOLLOWERS! GOD BLESS YOU TRUMP! GOD BLESS AMERICA!'

In September, Fransen was charged with causing religiously aggravated harassment together with the leader of Britain First, Paul Golding.

YouTubeJayda Franson, deputy leader of the far-right party Britain First.

Kent police said at the time: 'The investigation related to the distribution of leaflets in the Thanet and Canterbury areas, and the posting of online videos during a trial held at Canterbury crown court the same month.'

The trial in Canterbury involved three Muslim men and a teenager who were eventually convicted of rape and sent to prison.

The extreme rightwing terrorist Thomas Mair shouted 'Britain first' before killing the MP Jo Cox during last year's referendum on EU membership.

Cox's widow, Brendan Cox, responded to Trump's retweets by himself tweeting: 'Trump has legitimised the far right in his own country, now he's trying to do it in ours. Spreading hatred has consequences & the President should be ashamed of himself.'

Trump has a long record of anti-Muslim rhetoric. He first called for a ban on Muslims entering the US in 2015, and has since attempted to implement the policy while President, seeking a travel ban which was originally directed at seven Muslim-majority countries. He also tweeted in 2015 about what he called the UK's 'massive Muslim problem'.

In the US, he has previously suggested the creation of a government database to track Muslim Americans and made false claims that Muslims in New Jersey celebrated the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.

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