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

The U.S. ambassador of International Religious Freedom lobbied Britain to show sympathy to chief white nationalist

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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.

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Taylor Link is an assistant editor at Salon. You can find him on Twitter at @taylorlink_.