Trump Shuns American Muslims At White House Ramadan Celebration
For the second year in a row, the Trump administration largely excluded American Muslims from a White House celebration of Islam’s holiest month.
“Once again, the White House refuses to acknowledge the existence and contributions of American Muslims at the annual White House Iftar,” the Muslim Public Affairs Council lamented in a blog post Monday. Iftar is the nightly break-fast meal held after sunset during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
The modern White House Iftar dinner tradition began during the Clinton administration and continued through three presidencies, though Trump declined to hold a dinner in his first year in office. After the White House resumed the tradition in 2018, Vox reported that “no Muslim-American leaders or activists appear to have attended the dinner.”
The White House declined on Tuesday to share its invitation list for the event, another contrast with the Obama administration. But statements from Trump’s press team indicate American Muslims were largely left out.
“The President hosted an Iftar dinner at the White House for Ambassadors and members of the diplomatic corps representing countries with significant Muslim populations,” White House deputy press secretary Judd Deere said in an email.
That precisely matched the President’s language in brief remarks he made at the dinner. After shouting out several members of his Cabinet in attendance, Trump thanked “many of the ambassadors and members of the diplomatic corps representing countries with large Muslim populations.”
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According to Talking Points Memo, there was at least one Muslim-American attendee: Imam Dawud Agbere of the U.S. Army. Agbere has attended other White House events during the Trump presidency.
Notably, Agbere, who was born in Ghana, came to the United States after winning the so-called “Diversity Visa” lottery, a program Trump has relentlessly attacked and sought to end.
A spokesperson for Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) said that the congresswoman was not invited to Monday’s Iftar dinner. Spokespeople for Congress’s two other Muslim members, Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and André Carson (D-IN), did not respond to requests for comment.
Nihad Awad, the Executive Director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, wrote on Twitter that the White House “[cut] out American Muslim community leaders” from the dinner.
Is it not ironic that on the day you're hosting Muslim foreign diplomats for Iftar at the White House (and cutting out American Muslim community leaders), you're attacking Muslim lawmaker @RashidaTlaib, spewing division and hatred of Muslims. Hypocrisy!
— Nihad Awad نهاد عوض (@NihadAwad) May 13, 2019