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Trump's vague condemnation of Charlottesville killing plays into extremists' hands

At least 19 people were injured by a hit-and-run driver in Charlottesville Credit: AP

As a presidential candidate, Donald Trump always promised to confront the threat from domestic terrorism.

But perhaps he wasn't always straight about where that threat came from.

The violent extremism promoted by America’s white supremacists is neither new nor surprising.

Of all the deadly terrorist attacks in the US during the 15 years that followed 9/11, far right wing groups were responsible for 73 percent, according to research by the Government Accountability Office.

And yet, days after the inauguration of President Trump, his administration was reported to have decided to revamp a government counter-extremism programme to focus solely on Islamist radicals, rather than the pretend-patriots on the extreme far right.

Muslims are increasingly the victims of America's terrorist attacks.

Last week a mosque in Minnesota was firebombed in what officials have called "an act of terrorism".

But Trump remained silent - despite his almost instant responses to some attacks by Islamists abroad.

Trump did comment on the Charlottesville attack, but he was widely accused of lacking moral clarity in his public statement.

Having consistently criticised President Barack Obama's response to extremism linked to so-called Islamic State because he "disgracefully refused to even say the words 'radical Islam'", Trump failed to identify or denounce the ideology behind yesterday's killing.

His comments on Charlottesville were ambiguous. The tone was soft.

He spoke of the white supremacists in terms that were vaguer than his critiques of comedians on 'Saturday Night Live' or journalists from the New York Times.

This matters. Political discourse shapes violent extremism.

Terrorists aren't radicalised in isolation. By vaguely condemning violence "on many sides", the US president has allowed everyone to interpret his message as they wish.

That vagueness is Trump's biggest gift to extreme Islamist recruiters in the US and their 'America treats us differently' narrative.

Islamist extremism breeds far right hate and vice versa. These two ideologies have a symbiotic relationship.

By consistently failing to speak about white supremacists in the same way that he refers to Islamic State, Trump has fed both sides, and made the job for his counter-radicalisation officials more difficult.