Donald Trump abandons traditional White House Ramadan celebration
Donald Trump has not hosted an iftar dinner during Ramadan, breaking a nearly 20-year tradition.
Despite events held by previous administrations from across the political divide, this year’s Ramadan – which began on 26 May – passed nearly unobserved by the White House. It was marked only by a statement published late on Saturday afternoon, coinciding with the end of the holy month.
The first White House iftar dinner is said to have been hosted by President Thomas Jefferson, who hosted a Tunisian ambassador during the Islamic month of fasting in 1805.
Hillary Clinton resurrected the event when she was First Lady in February 1996, hosting about 150 people for a reception for Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of the holy month.
The sunset dinner, attended by legislators, diplomats and leaders within the US Muslim community, went onto become an annual tradition from 1999, observed by the past three administrations.
George W Bush held an iftar dinner every year of his two terms, including just after the 9/11 terror attacks of September 2001.
President Barack Obama hosted his first Ramadan dinner in 2009, and subsequently every year of his presidency.
The Washington Post reported that Saturday’s White House statement was signed by Donald and Melania Trump, and was not posted to the president’s social media presences. It read: “Muslims in the United States joined those around the world during the holy month of Ramadan to focus on acts of faith and charity.
“Now, as they commemorate Eid with family and friends, they carry on the tradition of helping neighbours and breaking bread with people from all walks of life. During this holiday, we are reminded of the importance of mercy, compassion, and goodwill. With Muslims around the world, the United States renews our commitment to honour these values. Eid Mubarak.”
In May, Reuters reported that the secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, had refused a recommendation by the State Department’s office of religion and global affairs – which typically initiates such events – to host a reception marking Eid al-Fitr.
A State Department spokesperson told Reuters it was “still exploring possible options for observance of Eid al-Fitr … US ambassadors are encouraged to celebrate Ramadan through a variety of activities, which are held annually at missions around the world.”
The Trump administration has been accused of Islamophobia for the president’s controversial proposed “travel ban” on six predominantly Muslim nations. After the presidential order was temporarily blocked by two federal appeals courts, the US supreme court is considering the Trump administration’s appeal.
This month, about 100 Muslim activists protested against the US president’s divisive policies and rhetoric on Islam outside Trump Tower in New York. The group prayed and broke fast outside the president’s business headquarters late on 1 June, as part of the “#IftarInTheStreets” action organised by immigrant advocacy groups.