Trump Welcomes Muslims to Iftar Dinner at White House

MANDEL NGAN via Getty Images

US President Donald Trump hosted his first White House dinner for Islam's holy month of Ramadan today, an overture that has surprised many people in the Muslim community after he skipped hosting such a meal previous year.

US President Donald Trump on Wednesday hosted his first iftar dinner as president to mark the Muslim holy month of Ramadan amid tense relations with the American Muslim community.

On the campaign trail, Trump called for a "total and complete" ban on Muslims entering the US.

Trump's administration, who many perceive is anti-Muslim and anti-minorities, hosted the dinner at the State Dining Room.

Ambassadors were invited from the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Tunisia, Iraq, Bahrain, Morocco, Algeria and Libya. A ruling is expected as early as this month.

He did not hold a similar event in his first year in office, in a break with past presidents.

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Iftar dinners have been held regularly at the White House since the Clinton administration as a form of outreach to the Muslim world.

Several Muslim civil rights groups pushed back, organizing a "NOT Trump's Iftar" protest at a park across from the White House.

"Our model of engagement with the government is that we have to believe we can move the needle in some respect, and given the policy and rhetoric from this White House, we don't believe that's possible, so we wouldn't put ourselves in the position to be 'tokenized, '" he said. Trump's critics also view the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital last December as a provocation aimed at the Muslim world.

The dinner was not held past year, breaking almost two decades of tradition started by the Clinton administration and maintained through the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations. Shortly after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, President George W. Bush hosted ambassadors and diplomats in celebration of Ramadan, declaring "evil has no holy days". His successor, Barack Obama, used the event to show that the West is not at war with Islam as a religion.

"Tonight as we enjoy a magnificent dinner at the White House, let us strive to embody the grace and goodwill that mark the Ramadan season", Trump told attendees.

Last year, Trump broke tradition. In January 2017, Trump signed an executive order, dubbed the "Muslim ban", which prohibited people from seven predominantly-Muslim countries from entering the US.

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