Tuesday, June 27, 2017

White House breaks tradition of hosting iftar dinner during Ramadan

President Obama hosted iftar dinners in the East Room of the White House.
FOR the first time in 20 years and three administrations, Ramadan was not observed in the White House.

Ramadan, Islam's holy days which began May 24 concluded Saturday (June 24) without any mention coming from the Donald Trump White House.

There really was no way Trump could come out of the situation looking good. If he held a ceremony observing Islam's holy days, he would have been accused of being a hypocrite because of his anti-Muslim statements and Muslim travel bans. 

On the other hand, not observing Ramadan, by not hosting an iftar dinner during Ramadan, he would be insulting the world's second largest religion once again. 

Trump chose the latter option. At least, Trump was being consistent.

The Clinton administration resurrected the iftar dinner and reception as then-First Lady Hillary Clinton welcomed the Muslim celebrants to the White House. President George W. Bush continued the tradition, including one right after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the U.S. President Obama hosted ceremonies and dinners every year of his presidency.

“From President Bush’s perspective, it was important post-9/11 for the administration and to show the White House and the US is inclusive of all people and religions, especially after such a traumatic event.," James Norton, a former deputy assistant secretary at the Department of Homeland Security under Bush, told the Guardian. "We were not at war with Islam itself but with terrorist organizations."

Although most people in the U.S., may associate Islam with countries in the Middle East or North Africa, nearly two-thirds (62%) of Muslims live in the Asia-Pacific region, according to the Pew Research Center analysis. In fact, more Muslims live in India and Pakistan (344 million combined) than in the entire Middle East-North Africa region (317 million).

The country with the largest number (about 209 million) is Indonesia, where 87.2% of the population identifies as Muslim, followed by India with 176 million Muslims.

Trump did nothing to improve his relationships with Muslims when he signed two executive orders restricting travel from six predominantly Muslim countries. Although two lower courts ruled the orders unconstitutional, the Supreme Court ruled Monday that part of the travel ban could be implemented this summer. The High Court agree to issue a ruling on the legality of the Muslim ban during its next term which begins in October.

“It is disappointing because (the iftar dinner has) been a good tradition," 
Talib Shareef, imam of the Nation’s Mosque in Washington, told Newsweek magazine. "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.”