President Trump hosted his first iftar dinner Wednesday, returning to the tradition established during the Clinton administration. Last year, the president passed on holding the dinner and issued a statement instead.
Iftar dinners have been held regularly at the White House since the Clinton administration as a form of outreach to the Muslim world. Shortly after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, President George W. Bush hosted ambassadors and diplomats in celebration of Ramadan, declaring “evil has no holy days.” President Barack Obama took up the tradition, saying that discriminating against Muslim Americans “feeds the lie” that the West is at war with their religion.
Last year, Trump broke tradition. Instead of hosting a dinner, the White House issued a statement on the Islamic holiday that focused heavily on the threat of terrorism, noting that recent attacks “steel our resolve to defeat the terrorists and their perverted ideology.”
Established as political outreach to Muslims during the Clinton administration, these dinners are mostly used to stress a president’s desire for unity and peaceful co-existence. This year was no different. Trump struck the appropriate tone as he delivered remarks. The dinner is held at sundown and breaks a day-long fast as Muslims celebrate the holy month of Ramadan.
“In gathering together this evening, we honor a sacred tradition of one of the world’s great religions,” he told an intimate audience that included Cabinet members and ambassadors from many Muslim-majority nations including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates.
In the State Dining Room, Pres Trump welcomes Muslim guests to an Iftar Dinner, marking the end of the daily fast during Holy Month of Ramadan. "It's a great month," he said. Reminds guests his first foreign trip as Pres was to Saudi Arabia, in the "heart of the Muslim world." pic.twitter.com/jLpLCsMOHh
— Mark Knoller (@markknoller) June 7, 2018
Though a guest list has not as yet been released, the White House Press Secretary said that 30 – 40 guests would be in attendance. The guests were thought to be diplomats from Muslim majority countries. That would make sense given the less than ideal relationship Trump has with Muslim activist groups. Vice-President Pence and Treasury Secretary Mnuchin were there.
In brief remarks, Pres Trump invites guests to join him in pursuit of grace and good will, peace and justice, to build a bright and prosperous future. "Have a very blessed Ramadan," he says. Other Admin officials at the dinner include the @VP, @stevenmnuchin1, and Jared Kushner.
— Mark Knoller (@markknoller) June 7, 2018
Who would criticize this you might ask. Well, the usual suspects did not only criticize President Trump for being excluded from the dinner but they organized and held their own dinner outside the White House gates. It was called the NOT Trump’s Iftar. Not very clever but everything must be resisted in Trump’s America. You probably won’t be surprised to read that this publicity-seeking demonstration was led by the leftist Council on American-Islamic Relations (C.A.I.R.). Many Muslims mostly just wanted to turn down an invitation to the White House dinner and are upset that the opportunity was not allowed.
“I was not invited to the White House iftar, but I would not attend if I were,” said Dalia Mogahed, director of research at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding.“Attending this event, especially during the holy month, a time of introspection and spiritual growth, would be inappropriate in my view as it would appear to normalize this administration’s behavior.”
“We do not need an iftar dinner,” said Imam Yahya Hendi, the Muslim chaplain at Georgetown University. “Rather, we need to get the respect we highly deserve. Do not feed us and stab us.”Hendi attended a White House iftar in 2009, when President Barack Obama was in office. He said he was not invited this year. Like many prominent Muslims who have attended previous White House iftars, Hendi said he would not attend if invited this year.
Sharif Aly, CEO of Islamic Relief USA, a humanitarian and advocacy organization, said the group was glad to see the White House had reinstated the iftar, “an event that should be hosted every year, just like the Easter Egg Roll, the Passover Seder and Christmas Open House.”
But he urged the administration “to actively engage on issues impacting our beneficiaries,” including the travel ban and proposed cuts to social welfare programs.
You can listen for yourself. Trump’s remarks strike the right tone for me.
— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) June 7, 2018