Trump claimed, without evidence, that mosques could get special treatment in the coronavirus lockdown — prompting accusations of Islamophobia

AP Photo/Patrick SemanskyPresident Donald Trump at a coronavirus task force briefing at the White House, Saturday, April 18, 2020.
  • President Donald Trump, without citing evidence, on Saturday claimed that mosques could receive special treatment in the coronavirus lockdown.
  • “Because they go after Christian churches but they don’t tend to go after mosques,” Trump claimed on Saturday. It is not clear who “they” was.
  • Earlier, he had retweeted a conservative activist who asked whether mosques would be allowed to remain open during Ramadan, while Christian churches were closed for Easter.
  • Critics accused the president of stirring Islamophobia.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

President Donald Trump on Saturday claimed that mosques might be receiving special treatment in the coronavirus lockdown – a claim critics say will stir Islamophobic hostility towards Muslims.

The president on Saturday retweeted a message by conservative author Paul Sperry, asking whether authorities would “enforce the social-distancing orders for mosques during Ramadan (April 23-May 23) like they did churches during Easter.”

At the coronavirus task force briefing at the White House later that day, Trump was asked by a reporter why he had chosen to share the message with his 77 million followers.

“You know I just spoke with leaders and people that love mosques,” Trump replied. “They love mosques! And I’m all in favour of that. But I would say that there could be a difference. And we’ll have to see what will happen. Because I have seen a great disparity in this country. I’ve seen a great disparity…”

He then digressed to accuse some Democratic lawmakers of anti-Israel bias.

He continued: “Because they go after Christian churches but they don’t tend to go after mosques. And I don’t want them to go after mosques! But I do want to see what their event is.”

It is not clear whom Trump meant by “they” – the Democratic lawmakers, or some authorities who could hypothetically treat mosques and churches differently.

On Twitter, argued that mosques were abiding by social distancing guidelines and accused Trump of stoking Islamophobia.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment, and for information to substantiate Trump’s claims mosques could receive special treatment.

Trump has long been accused of fostering hostility towards Muslims for political gain, particularly with his pledge to stop Muslims entering the US, one of the cornerstones of his victorious 2016 presidential campaign.

The order was fine-tuned after legal challenges to specify that it applied to several Muslim-majority countries, and was upheld by the US Supreme Court in 2018.

In recent days allies on Fox News, including Tucker Carlson, have been focusing their attacks on Democratic governors for banning gatherings in churches as part of measures to enforce social distancing rules.

Trump, under increasing pressure for his response to the crisis, on Saturday tweeted support for conservative activists in several states who violated social distancing rules to protest against lockdown orders issued by Democratic governors.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations on its website urges American Muslims to observe social distancing rules and “Stay Home, Stay Safe, Stay Strong” during the pandemic.

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