During his first year in office, Donald J. Trump broke with tradition and decided against hosting a Ramadan dinner at the White House. The move, along with multiple attempts to ban Muslim travel, caused an outcry of intolerance and bigotry from lawmakers and the general public. But on Wednesday, Trump will return to patterns of old and have an iftar feast.
According to Politico, the president will entertain an undisclosed list of guests from the Muslim community. The holy month of Ramadan, where followers fast from all food and drink starting from sunrise to sunset, lasts 30 days. Muslims also strive to make their mandatory five prayers per day, engage in charitable acts, read 1/30th of the Holy Quran daily, refrain from fighting and foul language, and abstain from sex during the daylight hours.
In years past, presidents including Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama have recognized the observance and touted it as essential in a country that promotes racial, ethnic, cultural, and religious diversity. When Trump announced that he would not host the dinner last year, Muslims of all sects came together and broke their fasts in front of Trump Towers in New York City. They wanted to show the world that Islam is a religion of peace and to condemn Trump’s Islamophobic policies.
Because of his history of making anti-Islamic statements throughout his presidential campaign, the reinstatement of the annual iftar feast has been met with skepticism. Most recently, Trump celebrated the move of the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem recognizing it as the capital of Israel on the day before Ramadan started. During the subsequent protests, some 62 Palestinians were murdered by Israeli forces.
However, in his official White House statement, Trump said that he and Melania joined in the hope for a blessed month.
“Ramadan reminds us of the richness Muslims add to the religious tapestry of American life,” the statement reads. “In the United States, we are all blessed to live under a Constitution that fosters religious liberty and respects religious practice. Our Constitution ensures Muslims can observe Ramadan in accordance with the dictates of conscience and unimpeded by government. By doing so, the Constitution also furnishes varied opportunities for all Americans to deepen their understanding of the human soul.”
Considering recent events, the gesture of hosting the dinner has received backlash on social media. Wajahat Ali tweeted his proposed menu for the dinner which included forbidden foods and drinks like pork and alcohol.
Radio host and columnist at The Daily Beast Dean Obeidallah doubts Trump’s sincerity. He tweeted that if Trump publicly apologized to “every community he’s demonized,” then he would go to the dinner — if invited. Obeidallah doesn’t expect that to happen.
Following is a TRT World YouTube video about Trump’s Ramadan statement.