Trump Breaks Decades of Tradition as White House Fails to Hold end-of-Ramadan Meal

Id al-Fitr celebration has been a regular Washington fixture since 1996, but the first presidential iftar actually dates back to 1805

TJ
Thomas Jefferson held the first Id al-Fitr dinner at the White House salon.com

U.S. President Donald Trump didn’t host an iftar dinner to mark the end of Ramadan on Saturday night, breaking with a tradition that dates back to 1805.

Instead, the White House issued a statement late Saturday evening saying: “Muslims in the United States joined those around the world during the holy month of Ramadan to focus on acts of faith and charity. Now, as they commemorate Id with family and friends, they carry on the tradition of helping neighbors and breaking bread with people from all walks of life.

“During this holiday," it continued, "we are reminded of the importance of mercy, compassion, and goodwill. With Muslims around the world, the United States renews our commitment to honor these values. Id Mubarak.”

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said last month that the White House wouldn’t be hosting a celebration to mark the end of Ramadan. Instead, on Saturday night he released a brief statement saying, “Best wishes to all Muslims celebrating Id al-Fitr.”

That first iftar dinner at the White House took place during the presidency of Thomas Jefferson over 210 years ago. But it was Hillary Clinton who made the meal marking the end of Ramadan an annual event, holding the first official Id al-Fitr celebration in 1996.

Muslim Voices reported that the first lady credited her daughter for the innovation, since Chelsea had been studying Islamic history the previous year and mentioned it to her mom.

Hillary Clinton welcomed those first guests by noting that it was a “historic occasion,” adding, “Just as children and families of other faiths have come here to celebrate some of their holy days, so you too are all here to mark this important Islamic tradition,”

President George W. Bush maintained the tradition for each year of his two terms. Indeed, during Ramadan in 2005, he added the first ever copy of the Koran into the White House library.

Then-President Barack Obama speaking at a White house iftar meal in August 2010.
AFP

His successor, President Barack Obama, also held a White House iftar every year from 2009 to 2016. And the Trump message was in stark contrast to the final one issued by Obama: “This Id, we recommit to protecting Muslim Americans against bigotry and xenophobia, while celebrating the contributions of Muslim Americans around the country,” he said in July 2016.

Trump famously began his term in the White House by signing an executive order that banned travelers and refugees from seven predominantly Muslim countries from visiting the United States, prompting major demonstrations at U.S. airports. Both that and a subsequent attempt to restrict entrance to citizens from certain Islamic states have since been stymied by the American legal system.

Muslims shouldn’t feel too disheartened by the snub, though. The Trumps didn’t attend the annual White House Passover seder in April, either.

Trump was among the guests Saturday night at the wedding of U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and  Louise Linton.