President Donald Trump did not host an iftar dinner, the meal that breaks Muslims’ daily fast during the holy month of Ramadan. This is the first time in 20 years a president hasn’t done so.
As Imam Talib Shareef, the president of the Nation’s Mosque in Washington, D.C., told Newsweek, “To stop [the dinner] 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?”
Eid al-Fitr, which began Saturday and ends Tuesday, marks the end of Ramadan, and for the past two decades, the White House has continuously hosted a reception to commemorate the event. This year, though, Trump simply put out a White House statement on Saturday night (though he didn’t post it to Twitter or Facebook).
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 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.
As the Guardian notes, the first White House iftar dinner was hosted by Thomas Jefferson in 1805. In 1996, Hillary Clinton restarted the tradition, and Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama all participated on a yearly basis during their terms.
Trump has clashed with the Muslim community throughout his presidency—from the Muslim travel ban to his slow response to the alleged murder of two people who were defending a Muslim girl from a white supremacist. Many civil rights organizations believe that the 20 percent increase in hate crimes for 2016 was due to Trump’s vitriolic views on Islam and immigration.
In May, it was reported that although he had been given a recommendation by the State Department to host a Ramadan event, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson declined the idea.
At the beginning of Ramadan, Trump released a statement that referenced Islamic terrorist attacks. In part, the statement said, “This year, the holiday begins as the world mourns the innocent victims of barbaric terrorist attacks in the United Kingdom and Egypt, acts of depravity that are directly contrary to the spirit of Ramadan. Such acts only steel our resolve to defeat the terrorists and their perverted ideology … During this month of Ramadan, let us be resolved to spare no measure so that we may ensure that future generations will be free of this scourge and able to worship and commune in peace.”
That led Shadi Hamid, a Brookings Institution fellow, to tell the Washington Post, “Trump has so rarely recognized that American Muslims even exist, but this offers apparent proof that he is aware of our existence. Great! Putting all that context aside, it’s offensive and pretty much terrible.”