For the first time in over 20 years, the White House did not hold the annual Iftar dinner – a celebration to mark the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which ended Saturday. The dinner, which has often been attended by prominent members of the Muslim community in the United States, began in 1996 during former President Bill Clinton’s White House tenure and was continued each year during the administrations of both President George Bush and President Barack Obama.
Last year, then-presidential aspirant Donald Trump told ABC News’ Jonathan Karl in an interview that he would be open to continuing the decades-long tradition of hosting an Iftar dinner if he were to be elected as the president.
“It wouldn’t bother me. It wouldn’t bother me,” he said last June. “It’s not something I’ve given a lot of thought to but it wouldn’t bother me.”
Despite his decision, the President did issue official statements for Ramadan 2017 and Eid al-Fitr, saying: “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.”
Confirmation that the White House won’t celebrate the end of Ramadan 2017 came shortly after Secretary of State Rex Tillerson also raised eyebrows by declining to hold the annual event at the State Department. Since 1999, secretaries of state have almost always hosted an Iftar dinner or a reception at the State Department.
However, the State Department did also release a statement, sending “best wishes to all Muslims celebrating Eid al-Fitr.”
The relationship between Muslims and the current administration has been strained since even before Trump’s victory in the election, mostly because of the travel ban Trump has proposed that targets mainly Muslim countries. Trump’s critics, dubbed it a ‘Muslim ban’ which the president and his staff have since denied.
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