In a surprising move, US President Donald Trump hosted his first Iftar dinner at the White House during which he sought co-operation from the Muslim world to achieve a future of security and prosperity for all. Just last year, he had departed from the decades of precedent cancelling the annual Iftar dinner.
The tradition of hosting Iftar dinner at the White House formally began with Bill Clinton in the 1990s but has conceptual roots tracing as far back as under Thomas Jefferson in 1805.
Trump, who has frequently engaged in anti-Muslim rhetoric, wished Muslims around the world a “Ramadan Mubarak” – a blessed holiday and sought co-operation from them to achieve a future of security and prosperity for all.
“Only by working together can we achieve a future of security and prosperity for all,” Trump told a gathering of diplomats and officials at the iftar dinner last evening.
“For this reason, I was proud to make my first foreign trip as President to the heart of the Muslim world, where I addressed an assembly of more than 50 leaders of Muslim-majority countries. That was something,” he said.
“The partnership and solidarity that we established over the past year has only deepened with time. So many friendships. So many meetings, even in the Oval Office. And we’ve made a lot of progress, I think, a lot of tremendous progress,” Trump said.
After delivering his remarks, Trump sat on the head table which among others included Saudi Ambassador Prince Khalid Ben Salman and Jordanian envoy Dina Kawar. The Indonesian Ambassadors was also seated on the same table. Envoys from several Muslim countries including the UAE, Egypt, Tunisia, Qatar, Bahrain, Morocco, Algeria, Libya, Kuwait, Gambia, Ethiopia, Iraq, and Bosnia were invited.
“A very warm welcome to all of the ambassadors here tonight representing Muslim-majority nations. We’re greatly honoured by your presence, and thank you very much for being here. Some very good friends. To each of you and to the Muslims around the world: Ramadan Mubarak,” Trump said.
Vice President Mike Pence and several of his Cabinet members, including Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross attended the Iftar dinner.
However, several Muslim civil rights groups pushed back, organising a “NOT Trump’s Iftar” protest at a park across from the White House. The groups say Trump’s heated rhetoric has contributed to an increase in bullying and discrimination against Muslim Americans.
The Iftar dinner was completely opposite from the inflammatory rhetoric Trump used during his campaign, when he called for a “complete and total shutdown” of Muslims entering the country, compared Syrian refugees fleeing civil war to a deadly snake and declared.
He has also imposed a travel ban, targeting travellers from five countries with overwhelmingly Muslim populations – Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen.
(with agency inputs)