Despite previous Islamophobic comments, President Donald Trump welcomed diplomats from Muslim-majority nations to the White House for iftar on May 13.Trump hosted the dinner in honor of Muslims and emphasized the meaning of Ramadan as a charitable time, however, failed to invite US Muslim groups.
“Ramadan is a time when people joined forces in pursuit of hope, tolerance, and peace. It is in this spirit that we come together tonight,” Trump said.
This is the second iftar to be hosted in the President’s term. In 2017 Trump broke the tradition that President Bill Clinton started in 1996 and did not host a reception. Both this and last year, American Muslim organizations and lawmakers were not a part of the guest list.
Many Muslim activists and organizations publically stated that should they have been invited they would have declined due to Trump’s past comments on the Islamic community.
“It would be very, very awkward for us to be there, in the presence of a president who is anti-Muslim, anti-immigrants, who supports white supremacy, and racist policies against communities of color and minorities,” said Nihad Awad, Executive Director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), America’s largest Muslim civil liberties advocacy organization.
American Muslim organizations have happily attended past iftars under Clinton, Bush and Obama, although many of them boycotted during the start of the Iraq war.
Political and Congress members, identifying as Muslim, have been present in past iftars, however, first Muslim Congresswomen Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib were not in attendance Monday night. Cabinet members and ambassadors from many Muslim-majority nations including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates were in attendance.
The iftar seemed to be targeted towards building relationships in the Gulf as opposed to American Muslims, despite Trump’s speech noting America as a country of diversity and acceptance.
“We thank god that America is a place founded on beliefs that citizens of all faiths can live together in safety and live together in freedom,” he said
Since Trump’s inauguration into the White House, violence against Muslims and people of color has seen a significant increase. According to the FBI, a total of 7,175 hate crime incidents were reported in 2017, representing a 17 percent increase over 2016 data and the greatest single-year increase reported since 2001, when hate crime targeting Arab Americans and American Muslims, and those perceived to be Arab or Muslim, surged in the aftermath of 9/11.