Gage Skidmore is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Gage Skidmore is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The celebration started in 1805 and was revived by the Clinton administration in the 1990s.
President Trump’s White House broke tradition when it did not host the traditional Ramadan iftar dinner . Iftar is a meal which devout Muslims consume to end their daily fast at the end of Ramadan.

The history of iftar with the White House is a long one, started by Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson staunchly supported religious freedom. He hosted an iftar at the White House in December 1805. The event was held to honor Sidi Soliman Mellimelli, a Tunisian ambassador at that time. Interestingly, the event was held at a time of conflict, during the time America was in conflict with what was then the Barbary States.

Invitees were greeted with the invitation which informed them dinner will be served exactly at sunset. Another President, John Quincy Adams, had noted in his personal diaries that dinner was served a little late in the evening due to Ramadan. At that time, dinner was usually served at 3:30 pm.

Through his actions, President Trump has officially become the first U.S. head of state during the recent 20 years to forgo an iftar dinner. He stopped the tradition which began again during the Clinton presidency. Instead of having a party, President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump issued a statement wishing officially worded warm greetings to all Muslims while they celebrate Eid al-Fitr. The latter marks end of Ramadan.

The yearly iftar dinners at the White House were generally attended by important Muslim community members. Prominent diplomats and lawmakers attended too. Dinners were held even after the fateful events of September 11, 2001. George W. Bush, the then President of the United States, pointed out that the country was fighting terrorists and their ideologies, but not Islam.

The refusal by the Trump White House has disappointed a number of American Muslims. Talib Shareef, the imam of the Nation’s Mosque in Washington, said that to stop such a tradition sends a bad message. He pointed out, if President Trump has time to visit the golf course, he can give some time for American Muslims also. The message sent out by Trump is that Muslims are not important in the new America.

Trump, during his presidential campaign was asked if he’d be continuing the ifar tradition said, “It wouldn’t bother me. It wouldn’t bother me It’s not something I’ve given a lot of thought to but it wouldn’t bother me.”


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