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Trump to blame for Islamophobia? Debate erupts after New Zealand mosque slayings

After a gunman cut down 49 worshippers at two New Zealand mosques, multiple commentators have blamed US President Donald Trump for the violence. Trump himself has condemned the killings.

“We hold you responsible for this growing anti-Muslim sentiment in the country and in Europe,” Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) leader Nihad Awad said at a press conference on Friday.

“The perpetrator of this terrorist attack has been inspired by hate-mongers in the United States and in Europe,” he added. “The perpetrator of this horrific and terrorist attack today referenced President Trump in his manifesto.”

Alleged perpetrator Brenton Tarrant live-streamed his shooting rampage on Facebook, and can be seen stalking from room to room, executing Muslims in their place of worship. Before his killing spree began, Tarrant reportedly released a rambling 70-page ‘manifesto’, blending internet memes with calls for a race war between whites and Muslim “invaders.”

Tarrant mentioned Trump by name, calling him a “symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose,” but rubbishing his abilities as a “policy maker and leader.”

Trump condemned the attacks, offering “warmest sympathy and best wishes” to the people of New Zealand, but downplayed the idea that white supremacy is a growing threat worldwide.

New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez accused Trump of “hostility to Muslim people,” for his controversial travel ban, while Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal told CNN that Trump's anti-immigrant rhetoric was "a factor" in Tarrant's attack.

CNN contributor Dan Pfeiffer said that Trump had “enabled and empowered” white nationalism, while a host of commentators and celebrities roasted the president for not coming out strongly enough against white supremacy.

Trump has faced similar criticism before, most notably for his muted response to white nationalist protests in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017. The Charlottesville rally made headlines after self-described white supremacist James Alex Fields Jr. plowed his car into a crowd of left-wing protesters, killing one.

In his manifesto, Tarrant explicitly stated that he wanted to bait the American left and right into attacking each other. However, some commentators weren’t falling for the ruse.

Others blasted CAIR for using “massacres to try and settle personal vendettas.”

Tarrant’s manifesto was littered with internet memes and in-jokes from claims of being radicalized by black conservative activist Candace Owens to the internet-famous ‘Navy Seal copypasta’ meme and reference to YouTube star PewDiePie. He also mentioned “Spyro the dragon" and "Fortnite" as inspiration for acts of violence, although in a mocking tone. 

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