Angry Muslims are contrasting the end-of-Ramadan celebration hosted by former President Barack Obama and his two predecessors with President Donald Trump’s decision not to host an iftar dinner this year.
An iftar dinner is a traditional end of the month-long Muslim celebration of Ramadan. The Clinton and Bush White Houses each hosted one, as did Obama.
The lack of a dinner was no surprise, as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had indicated that none was planned.
The White House did issue a statement marking the end of Ramadan:
“Muslims in the United States joined those around the world during the holy month of Ramadan to focus on acts of faith and charity,” the statement said.
“Now, as they commemorate Eid with family and friends, they carry on the tradition of helping neighbors 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 honor these values. Eid Mubarak,” the statement said.
Many were upset that the Trump administration broke with precedent.
“It is disappointing because that’s been a good tradition. To stop it doesn’t send a good message. You get the chance to go golfing and all this other kind of stuff. How come you don’t have time for a population of your society that needs some assistance? The message that it sends is that we’re not that important,” said Talib Shareef, imam of the Nation’s Mosque in Washington
Mamadou Samba, who attended an Obama iftar in 2015, said the change was a letdown.
“As a tradition held by U.S. presidents, I personally appreciate the reception as recognition of our faith and as Muslim Americans. I looked forward to it this year but was a bit disappointed that it did not occur and wonder what it means to have skipped it,” he said.
One fiery critic of Trump said the dinner was just a symptom of the administration’s attitude toward Muslims.
“(Trump) shows no concern for our rights, employs the worst anti-Muslim bigots in his administration and enshrines Islamophobia into law,” said Haroon Moghul, a fellow in Jewish-Muslim relations at the Shalom Hartman Institute.
“Just with this travel ban, the lives of thousands of Americans – and that’s who they are, because they live and work and contribute to here – are ruined. It is the beginning of his hatred of us, rhetoric unfolding into policy, and not the end. What difference would a dinner invitation make to any of these things?” he said.
James Norton, a former deputy assistant secretary at the Department of Homeland Security under former President George W. Bush, said that Bush sought to preserve the distinction between being at war with terrorists and not with Islam.
“From President Bush’s perspective, it was important post-9/11 for the administration to show the White House and the U.S. is inclusive of all people and religions, especially after such a traumatic event. We were not at war with Islam itself but with terrorist organizations,” he said.
“President Bush went out of his way to wrap his arms around the Muslim community. I don’t know why the current administration made this decision,” he said.
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