US President Donald Trump has retweeted a fake image depicting congressional Democrats’ top-ranked leaders in traditional Muslim attire in front of the Iranian flag, drawing criticism he is encouraging Islamophobia.
- Donald Trump has previously railed against Democrats for questioning the killing of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani
- The White House says the tweet was intended to show Democrats were “almost taking the side of terrorists”
- US Muslim groups say there is “no place” for bigoted memes
The manipulated photo shows House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer in Muslim garb with the caption: “The corrupted Dems trying their best to come to the Ayatollah’s rescue #NancyPelosiFakeNews.”
Tweet @D0wn_Under The corrupted Dems trying their best to come to the Ayatollah’s rescue.
Mr Trump, a Republican, has previously attacked Democrats for criticising his administration’s targeted killing of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani, but his use of Muslim imagery as part of that effort has drawn pushback from Muslim advocates in the US.
“The image is a hodgepodge of anti-Muslim tropes and garb from many traditions including some that are frequently used to stereotype and attack Muslims,” Madihha Ahussain, special counsel at the non-profit group Muslim Advocates, said in a statement.
“It’s disappointing but not surprising that the President would use his massive Twitter platform to spread this kind of harmful, ignorant, anti-Muslim bigotry.”
Wa’el Alzayat, chief executive officer of the Muslim American group Emgage Action — named for its mission to engage Muslim Americans — also criticised Mr Trump’s decision to amplify the doctored photo of Ms Pelosi and Mr Schumer.
“There’s no place for it, irrespective of political differences,” he said in an interview.
Mr Schumer tweeted his own pushback to Mr Trump, asking: “How low can you go?”
The image that Mr Trump retweeted on Monday had been circulating on the internet for a few days.
The Twitter account that Mr Trump got it from has a history of tweeting in both English and Persian about Iranian issues, promoting pro-Trump content and criticising US Democrats.
White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham defended Mr Trump’s retweet of the image, telling Fox News on Monday the tweet was intended to show Democrats “have been parroting Iranian talking points and almost taking the side of terrorists and those who were out to kill the Americans”.
Tensions have soared since the US airstrike earlier this month that killed General Soleimani, Iran’s top general and the architect of its regional military activities.
Iran responded by firing ballistic missiles at US troops in Iraq, without wounding anyone, and it accidentally shot down a Ukrainian jetliner near Tehran, killing all 176 onboard.
Democrats have raised questions about the Trump administration’s rationale for ordering the Soleimani killing, warning about the resulting heightened tensions with Iran.
But no Democrats have praised General Soleimani, and Ms Pelosi herself described him last week as a “terrible person” who “did bad things”.