WASHINGTON – Like much other propaganda, the anti-Muslim videos spread around by U.S. President Donald Trump mix grains of truth, fakery and shades in between, overlaid with a message meant to be a blunt hammer blow for a cause.
Trump’s penchant for sharing doctored images and making false statements on Twitter means that content tweeted or retweeted by the president should be viewed skeptically. His spokeswoman, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, suggested the veracity of the videos wasn’t a high priority amid concern over national security and strong borders, saying: “Whether it’s a real video, the threat is real and that is what the president is talking about.”
Here’s a look at known facts behind the videos tweeted by a far-right British fringe group and retweeted by Trump:
FALSE: “Muslim migrant beats up Dutch boy on crutches”
One video shows a young man attacking another who is on crutches, near a river bank. It was originally posted to a Dutch viral video site in May and picked up by Dutch media. In her tweet, Jayda Fransen, the deputy leader of Britain First, wrote: “VIDEO: Muslim migrant beats up Dutch boy on crutches!” But the victim was not attacked by a Muslim migrant.
“Facts do matter,” the Dutch Embassy in Washington said in a tweet directed at Trump. “The perpetrator of the violent act in this video was born and raised in the Netherlands. He received and completed his sentence under Dutch law.”
APPARENTLY TRUE: “Muslim Destroys a Statue of Virgin Mary”
One video shows a man, said to be a supporter of Syria’s al-Qaida affiliate then known as the Nusra Front, smashing a statue of the Virgin Mary. The Middle East Media Research Institute identified the man as Sheikk Omar Raghba. In the video, he declares that “idols” will no longer be worshipped in the Levant before he smashes the statue, half his size, in the Yakubiya village in northwestern Syria.
The circumstances are not verified, but the images ring true. It’s well known that Islamic extremists target people and objects of other faiths – Christians, Jews, Muslims of other sects and movements – as well as indiscriminate populations. Also well known: Anti-Muslim extremists in the U.S. and other countries of the West have torched mosques. The video appeared online in 2013.
WATCH: White House defends Trump’s re-tweets of anti-Muslim videos
MISSING PIECES: “Islamist mob pushes teenage boy off roof and beats him to death”
One video, blurry and shaky, shows someone falling from the roof of an apparent elevator shaft, then at least one man punching the victim. “Islamist mob pushes a teenage boy off roof and beats him to death!” says the tweet introducing it.
The video was filmed days after the overthrow of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi by Egypt’s military. In the video, a supporter of Morsi is seen roaming the roof of a building in the coastal city of Alexandria, raising a black flag often used by militants. Little else is obvious from the video except that a confrontation was unfolding on the roof. Perpetrators of the roof violence were sentenced to death for killing a boy and a man.
The wider context of those killings was ignored – the fact that both sides had blood on their hands. It was a time of violent protests by pro-Morsi protesters and a violent military crackdown. More than 1,000 people died in the military’s dispersal of Islamic protests.