For the first time in nearly two decades, the White House did not host an iftar dinner to commemorate Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting.
Instead, President Donald Trump and first lady Melania released a statement on Saturday wishing “warm greetings” to those celebrating Eid al-Fitr, an important holiday marking the end of Ramadan.
“Muslims in the United States joined those around the world during the holy month of Ramadan to focus on acts of faith and charity,” they said. “Now, as they commemorate Eid with family and friends, they carry on the tradition of helping neighbors and breaking bread with people from all walks of life.”
By not hosting a dinner, Trump breaks with an annual tradition upheld by the past three administrations. The dinners began under President Bill Clinton and were continued by both Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. They were typically attended by prominent members of the Muslim community as well as members of Congress and diplomats from Muslim countries.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson also broke with decades of tradition by rejecting a request by the State Department’s Office of Religion and Global Affairs to host a reception marking Eid al-Fitr, according to two administration officials familiar with the decision.
Since 1999, Tillerson’s five Republican and Democratic predecessors have hosted either an iftar dinner to break the fast during Ramadan or an Eid al-Fitr reception at the end of the monthlong holiday. Many diplomatic posts overseas also host events during the Ramadan month of fasting and prayer.
The President has had a fraught relationship with the Muslim community in the United States. Many criticized his campaign trail calls for the surveillance of mosques as Islamophobic. In the White House, Trump has attempted to ban travel to the US from several Muslim-majority countries. However, during his first trip abroad, Trump attempted to bridge that divide, delivering a speech to the leaders of 55 Muslim-majority countries calling for unity in the fight against terrorism.