Reprinted with permission from Alternet.
US President Donald Trump broke a two-decade-long tradition this weekend by not hosting a White House dinner to celebrate Eid, marking the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
It is the first Iftar — the celebratory meal Muslims eat to break their fast — dinner not to be held at the White House since 1999 when former president Bill Clinton made it an annual tradition. Instead, Trump limited his marking of Eid to a statement sending “warm greetings” to Muslims observing it around the world.
“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 Saturday statement read.
“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.”
The three-day Eid al-Fitr holiday began on Friday and marks the end of a month of sunrise-to-sunset fasting which is intended to bring the faithful closer to God and remind them of the suffering of the sick and poor.
The news of Trump’s decision to not host the dinner — which prominent US Muslim leaders, diplomats and legislators usually attend — has been widely criticised.
“It is disappointing because that’s been a good tradition,” Imam Talib Shareef of the Nation’s Mosque in Washington, D.C., was quoted as telling Newsweek. “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,” he said.
Trump has repeatedly come under fire for what has been perceived as anti-Muslim rhetoric, especially during his presidential campaign, when he called on the surveillance of US mosques as well as a ban on Muslims entering the country.
Furthermore, earlier this year he issued a controversial ban on travellers from several predominantly Muslim countries, including Iran, Libya, Syria and Yemen, to protect the US from “terrorism”. The ban however was blocked by US courts on discriminatory grounds.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson also issued a statement on Eid on Saturday.
“This holiday marks the culmination of Ramadan, a month in which many experience meaning and inspiration in acts of fasting, prayer, and charity.
“This day offers an opportunity to reflect on our shared commitment to building peaceful and prosperous communities. Eid Mubarak.”
President Thomas Jefferson, who was an advocate for religious freedom, is reportedly the first US President to have hosted an Iftar dinner at the White House in 1805.
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