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Trump ends tradition of Ramadan dinner at White House

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
US President Donald Trump (Photo by AFP)

US President Donald Trump has refused to hold a Ramadan dinner at the White House, putting an end to a years-long tradition observed by his predecessors.

Trump and his wife, Melania, released a statement on Saturday to congratulate Muslims on the occasion of Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of the holy month 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," their statement read.

"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," it added.

Absent from this year’s White House agenda, however, was a symbolic reception that the former administrations had held for nearly two decades.

Began by former President Bill Clinton, the event has featured members of the Muslim community as well as members of Congress and diplomats from Muslim countries.

Completing the Trump administration’s disregard for the tradition was US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who turned down a request to hold a Ramadan event at the US State Department earlier this month.

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All US state secretaries have hosted Ramadan events at the department since 1999, the year then-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright held the first event.

Like Trump, Tillerson has decided to address the occasion by the way of statements. He marked the beginning of Ramadan by describing it as "a month of reverence, generosity, and self-reflection."

The Trump White House’s relationship with the Muslim community has been acrimonious due to his anti-Muslim rhetoric both before and after presidency.

The new Republican president has adamantly pushed for a visa ban against people from several Muslim-majority nations while pledging to fight what he calls “radical Islamic terror.”

Trump also marked the beginning of the Muslim holy month of fasting in a statement laced with warnings against terror and violence, even mentioning the recent terror attacks in the UK.

While the US government served the first symbolic Iftar dinner in 1805, it took until 1996 for the White House to make it a yearly ritual.

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