Like Obama, Trump Opens White House for Islamic Ramadan Dinner


WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump on Wednesday will host his first White House dinner for Islam’s holy month of Ramadan, an overture that surprised many Muslims after he skipped hosting such a meal last year.

The dinner comes as the Supreme Court considers legal challenges to Trump’s policy restricting travel from several majority-Muslim countries. A ruling is expected as early as this month.

The White House was expected to release a list of attendees ahead of the iftar dinner, which breaks a daylong fast.

Press secretary Sarah Sanders said she expected about 30 to 40 people to attend.

Several Muslim groups rejected the administration’s overture and instead organized a “NOT Trump’s Iftar” protest to be held Wednesday evening at a park across from the White House.

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Sharif Aly, CEO of Islamic Relief USA, said, “We’re glad to see the White House has 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.

During his presidential campaign, Trump responded to terrorist attacks by calling for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.”

That evolved into the policy banning travel from four Muslim-majority nations racked by civil wars — Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen — and from longtime U.S. adversaries Iran and North Korea.

Do you approve of the White House's decision to host a Ramadan dinner?

The travel ban, along with Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, upset many in the Muslim world.

Iftar dinners have been held regularly at the White House since the Clinton administration as a form of outreach to Muslims. Shortly after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, President George 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.”

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The White House struck a considerably warmer tone last month when it released a statement from the president declaring “Ramadan Mubarak,” a common greeting in Islam for a blessed holiday.

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The statement praised the Constitution for ensuring Muslims can observe the holiday “unimpeded by government.”

“Ramadan reminds us of the richness Muslims add to the religious tapestry of American life,” the statement said.

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