WASHINGTON: Democrats led by an Arab-American lawmaker attacked President Donald Trump’s “silence” on the rise of white supremacy Sunday as reaction to the New Zealand mosque massacre spilled into a heated US debate over religious and racial bigotry, reports AFP.
With controversy swirling over Trump’s tepid response to the massacre, White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney was forced to deny any affinity between the president’s anti-immigration rhetoric and the accused Christchurch shooter’s extremist views.“The president is not a white supremacist,” Mulvaney said in an interview with Fox News Sunday.
But on a separate Sunday talk show, Rashida Tlaib, a Democrat from Detroit and one of the first two Muslim women ever elected to the US Congress, charged that the president’s failure to speak out forcefully against white supremacy was making the country less safe.
“Trump is the most powerful man in the world right now,” she said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “He, from the Oval Office, from that power position, can be able to send a signal very loud and clear.”
“We’ve done this in the past against foreign terrorism. We need to do it on domestic terrorism, against white supremacy that’s growing every single day that we stay silent.”
After the attack on two mosques in Christchurch on Friday, which left 50 dead, Trump expressed sympathy and solidarity with the victims and people of New Zealand.
But in comments to reporters in the Oval Office, he dismissed concerns that white nationalism represented a growing danger around the world.“I don’t really. I think it’s a small group of people that have very, very serious problems, I guess,” Trump said.
The alleged gunman—identified as an Australian white nationalist—livestreamed the assault on social media and published a manifesto filled with racist conspiracy theories.
He also referred to Trump as “a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose.” At the grassroots level, the New Zealand attacks triggered a surge of solidarity from America’s Jewish and Christian communities, with hundreds of people taking part in interfaith vigils from Cincinnati to Philadelphia, Pasadena to New York.
But it also resounded in a US political scene already supercharged by controversy over remarks by Ilhan Omar—the only other Muslim woman in Congress along with Tlaib—that supporters of Israel and many fellow Democrats perceived as anti-Semitic.