Donald Trump’s Ambassador of Religious Freedom Lobbied on Behalf of an Anti-Islam Activist

An ambassador representing President Donald Trump lobbied the United Kingdom on behalf of jailed activist Tommy Robinson, the founder of the far-right English Defence League. According to Reuters, the U.S. ambassador inquired about Robinson's safety during a meeting with Britain's ambassador in Washington, D.C.


The discussion about Robinson, who gained worldwide notoriety for his anti-Islam rhetoric, was peculiar considering it was brought up by Sam Brownback, the U.S. ambassador of international religious freedom. Why an ambassador of religious freedom would speak on behalf of a religious persecutor has not yet been explained by the Trump administration.

Robinson, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, was arrested in May after broadcasting a Facebook live video outside a courthouse during a child-molestation trial. He was sentenced to 10 months in prison for contempt of court and an additional three more months for breaking the terms of a previous suspended sentence, the Guardian reported.

Robinson has become a figurehead of the alt-right at home and abroad, including the U.S. He has stylized himself as a journalist who covers Islamic issues. In 2009, he founded the English Defence League, a far-right, counter-jihadist group that harasses Muslims.

Robinson's cause has attracted solidarity in America. On Friday, Turning Point U.S.A. founder and staunch Trump supporter Charlie Kirk referenced Robinson in a tweet that attacked the mayor of London.

“Sadiq Khan is trying to lecture the world on ‘free speech’ while Tommy Robinson is locked in a London prison for speaking his mind,” the tweet said.

Robinson's jailing has generated mass protests in Britain. On Saturday, demonstrators campaigning for the release of Robinson incited a riot in central London by blockading a bus being driven by a woman in a headscarf, the Independent reported.

Dozens of protestors reportedly surrounded the bus as it entered Trafalgar Square. The group displayed “Britain Loves Trump” signs as they shoved them on the bus' windows.

Those protestors would be happy to learn that Brownback shared their concerns about Robinson's safety. The failed former governor of Kansas told Kim Darroch, the British ambassador to the U.S., that the U.K. would need to show Robinson more sympathy, otherwise Trump may feel compelled to speak out against the case, Reuters reported.

Brownback's interference on behalf of Robinson represents another situation in which a member of the Trump administration acted counterintuitively to his or her supposed role. Like former EPA chief Scott Pruitt, who rolled back regulations that were designed to protect the environment, Brownback's lobbying efforts could not be justified as an attempt to restore religious freedom. If anything, his lobbying furthered the marginalization of Muslims.

Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. AlterNet’s journalists work tirelessly to counter the traditional corporate media narrative. We’re here seven days a week, 365 days a year. And we’re proud to say that we’ve been bringing you the real, unfiltered news for 20 years—longer than any other progressive news site on the Internet.

It’s through the generosity of our supporters that we’re able to share with you all the underreported news you need to know. Independent journalism is increasingly imperiled; ads alone can’t pay our bills. AlterNet counts on readers like you to support our coverage. Did you enjoy content from David Cay Johnston, Common Dreams, Raw Story and Robert Reich? Opinion from Salon and Jim Hightower? Analysis by The Conversation? Then join the hundreds of readers who have supported AlterNet this year.

Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Help ensure AlterNet remains independent long into the future. Support progressive journalism with a one-time contribution to AlterNet, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you. Click here to donate by check.

Close
alternet logo

Tough Times

Demand honest news. Help support AlterNet and our mission to keep you informed during this crisis.