WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump hosted first Iftar dinner at White House on Wednesday, for Islam’s holy month of Ramadan, last year he surprised the Muslim community after he skipped hosting such a dinner during his first year in White House.
During the Iftar dinner, President Trump offered a message of unity, recognizing members of the Muslim community at home and abroad. Trump said that in this we honor and recognize one of the old religions.
The remarks was completely opposite which he used during his campaign, when he called for a “complete and total shutdown” of Muslims entering the country, compared Syrian refugees fleeing civil war to a deadly snake and declared, “I think Islam hates us” in an interview with CNN.
Instead, Trump spoke of “the renewed bonds of friendship and cooperation” forged with “valued partners” from across the Middle East and said Iftars “mark the coming together of families and friends to celebrate a timeless message of peace, clarity and love. There is great love.”
The dinner came as the Supreme Court considers legal challenges to Trump’s travel ban, which critics say unfairly targets some Muslim-majority countries. A ruling is expected as early as this month.
Several Muslim civil rights groups pushed back, organizing a “NOT Trump’s Iftar” protest at a park across from the White House. The groups say Trump’s heated rhetoric has contributed to an increase in bullying and discrimination against Muslim Americans.
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.
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.”