'It means nothing' a civil rights advocate said of Trump's social media post on the stabbings in Portland, which left two dead
President Donald Trump on Monday condemned the fatal stabbings of two Good Samaritans, who tried to stop a man from harassing a pair of women who appeared to be Muslim.
A third man who also came to the aid of the women suffered serious wounds in the attack on a Portland commuter train on Friday, hours before the start of Ramadan, Islam's holy month.
But Muslim advocates said the social media post does not undo Trump’s past statement against Muslims, which they say fuelled the flames of hatred in the country.
“The violent attacks in Portland on Friday are unacceptable,” Trump said in a Twitter message, three days after the crime took place.
The violent attacks in Portland on Friday are unacceptable. The victims were standing up to hate and intolerance. Our prayers are w/ them.
— President Trump (@POTUS) May 29, 2017
The tweet appeared only on Trump's @POTUS account, which has about 12 million fewer followers than his better-known @realDonaldTrump account, where the president frequently expresses his personal views.
“It means nothing,” Nasser Beydoun, the chairman of the Arab American Civil Rights League, told MEE of Trump’s tweet.
“This is his constituency. He thrives off hate. His whole presidency is based on hate, so one tweet isn’t going to make a difference.”
Beydoun added that Trump’s policies, including budget cuts that hurt the poor, pursuing the travel ban on several Muslim-majority countries and aligning Washington with Saudi Arabia, are based on hate.
During his election campaign, Trump made inflammatory statements that were perceived as bigoted against different religious and ethnic groups, branding Mexican undocumented immigrants “rapists” and vowing to ban Muslims from entering the United States.
Trump had also cited executing Muslim militants with bullets dipped in pigs' blood. He has described Syrian refugees as “ISIS” - in reference to the Islamic State (IS) group - and pledged to send them back to Syria if elected.
As a presidential candidate, Trump deemed a judge unfit to rule on a case involving Trump University because he is of Mexican descent.
A spike in hate crimes, including Islamophobic attacks, coincided with Trump’s election victory.
Trump has verbally renounced bigotry on several occasions, but his critics say he is not doing enough to quell the atmosphere of hate, which he helped create.
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Asha Noor, a representative of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Michigan, said Trump’s condemnation of Friday's suspected hate crime was “inadequate” and “extremely late”.
She said Trump and his followers are not willing to give proper condolences or take the necessary steps to counter acts of violence against Muslims.
“It’s almost two polar opposite reactions,” Noor told MEE. “If the alleged attacker is believed to be Muslim, the reaction is all over the news - Trump and his supporters would be the first to jump on that narrative and demonise an entire group of people. However, if the victim of the attack is Muslim or perceived to be Muslim, it’s radio silence.”
‘Go back to Saudi Arabia’
The suspect, Jeremy Joseph Christian, 35, remained in custody on Monday and will appear in state court on Tuesday on aggravated murder and other charges.
A convicted felon from Portland, Christian was shouting ethnic and religious slurs to intimidate two women riding on a MAX light-rail train, according to one of the women and other witnesses.
"He told us to go back to Saudi Arabia and that we shouldn't be here and to get out of his country," said Destinee Mangum, who was on the train with a friend wearing a Muslim head scarf.
"He was telling us that basically we weren't worth anything and we should just kill ourselves," she said in a video posted on CNN's website on Monday.
Three men aboard the train intervened, with one of them saying "You can't disrespect these young ladies like that", Mangum said in the video.
In a tear-choked voice, Mangum said she did not know the men and thanked them for putting their lives on the line.
"They lost their lives because of me and my friend and the way we look," Mangum said.
The FBI is investigating the stabbings to determine whether to charge Christian with terrorism or a federal hate crime, said Portland FBI spokeswoman Beth Anne Steele.
A GoFundMe account set up for the families of the men killed in the attack raised more than $420,000 by midday Monday, and another for the wounded man raised more than $175,000.
The victims, Taliesin Namkai-Meche and Rick Best, have been hailed as heroes.