Muslim-Americans absent from White House iftar

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Muslim-Americans absent from White House iftar

Trump hosted the 2019 iftar dinner alongside his wife, Melania Trump.

Trump hosted the 2019 iftar dinner alongside his wife, Melania Trump.

The White House official Instagram

Trump hosted the 2019 iftar dinner alongside his wife, Melania Trump.

The White House official Instagram

The White House official Instagram

Trump hosted the 2019 iftar dinner alongside his wife, Melania Trump.

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The holy month of Ramadan is a pivotal time during the Islamic calendar; an opportunity for Muslims to further their relationship with God through fasting and ritual prayer. The importance of Ramadan to the Muslim community was recognized by the White House as they began hosting an annual iftar dinner to break the Ramadan fast, inviting Muslim diplomats from predominantly Islamic countries as well as Muslim-American representatives to break their fast at sunset. The first official annual iftar dinner was held in 1996 under the First Lady Hillary Clinton, the tradition of which has been upheld by each subsequent president until 2017, when, amidst Trump’s proposed Muslim immigration ban, the dinner was not hosted.

Resuming the 23-year long tradition, Trump hosted an iftar this past Monday but neglected to invite the representatives from Muslim-America, extending invitations only to ambassadors from Muslim-dominant countries.

I think the fact that he neglected to invite Ilhan Omar is just proof that he does not care about Muslims as a whole; he only cares about his image.[…] I think the iftar dinner was just a show, that he wants to prove he cares, but he doesn’t actually.”

— Naffie Hagi Aden

The absence of Muslim organizations sparked controversy among representatives such as Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, and Nihad Awad, Executive Director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, all of whom agreed they would not have accepted an invitation, had one been offered. Awad spoke on the lack of invitation, saying: “It would be very, very awkward for us to be there, in the presence of a president who is anti-Muslim, anti-immigrants, who supports white supremacy, and racist policies against communities of color and minorities.”

Trump praised the Muslim community and spoke highly of Ramadan during his iftar speech: “Ramadan is a time of charity, of giving, and service to our fellow citizens. Ramadan is a very special time. It’s a time to draw closer as families, neighbors, and communities. And Ramadan is a time when people join forces in pursuit of hope, tolerance, and peace.” These courteous comments contradict earlier statements made by the president in regard to the Muslim community; in an interview with Fox Business Network in 2016, he said: “We’re having problems with the Muslims, and we’re having problems with Muslims coming into the country… You need surveillance. You have to deal with the mosques, whether you like it or not. These attacks are not done by Swedish people.”

9th-grade Naffie Hagi Aden spoke on the absence of Muslim-Americans at the iftar: “I think the fact that he neglected to invite Ilhan Omar is just proof that he does not care about Muslims as a whole; he only cares about his image.[…] I think the iftar dinner was just a show, that he wants to prove he cares, but he doesn’t actually.” The lack of Muslim representation in the White House perpetuates the Islamophobia found in America: “It reflects his exclusionary attitudes toward not only political but also social things and issues,” 10th -grade Mia Schubert said.  

At SPA, students are provided an opportunity to support the Muslim community through attending the Muslim Student Alliance club or donating to Muslim-American organizations such as Muslims for Progressive Values or the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee. In participating in these groups, students broaden their understanding of the Muslim community as well as the significance of religious holidays such as Ramadan. 

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