The US State Department is reportedly breaking an 18-year tradition of holding a fast-breaking feast… so will the White House follow suit?
US President Donald Trump wished Muslims a “joyful Ramadan” earlier this week, but it looks possible that’s the only way the head of state will mark the Holy Month in the US.
Ever since 1996, the White House has hosted an annual iftar, inviting members of the American Muslim community to break their fast alongside government representatives.
Though then-First Lady Hillary Clinton began the White House iftar in 1996, it’s not the first fast-breaking feast the building has seen.
In 1805, Thomas Jefferson hosted a Muslim ambassador from Tunis, and changed the usual meal time of 3.30pm to after sundown, to let the ambassador observe his religious values.
Bill Clinton, George Bush and Barack Obama have all kept the tradition alive, though doubts have been raised as to whether Trump will continue the occasion in the first year of his presidency.
Indeed, the State Department has reportedly confirmed it will not host a Ramadan event this year, breaking a tradition that’s been held for the best part of 18 years.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has turned down a request to host an iftar or Eid al-Fitr celebration, two US officials told Reuters.
The officials, who asked not to be identified, said Tillerson declined the memo from the Office of Religion and Global Affairs.
“We are still exploring possible options for observance of Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of the month of Ramadan,” a State Department spokesperson said when quizzed by Reuters.
“US ambassadors are encouraged to celebrate Ramadan through a variety of activities, which are held annually at missions around the world.”
Tillerson has, however, issued a statement calling Ramadan “a month of reverence, generosity, and self-reflection”.
“Most importantly, it is a cherished time for family and friends to gather and give charity to those who are less fortunate,” he added.
The White House has not yet responded to media requests about Ramadan events, and – as BuzzFeed notes – the Office of Public Engagement, which helped set up such occasions, has been disbanded under Trump’s government.
Trump has not yet announced whether the White House will be holding its own Ramadan event, though the President did issue a statement about the Holy Month this week.
“On behalf of the American people, I would like to wish all Muslims a joyful Ramadan,” the businessman-turned-politician said.
“During this month of fasting from dawn to dusk, many Muslims in America and around the world will find meaning and inspiration in acts of charity and meditation that strengthen our communities.”
Trump also touched on recent atrocities in Manchester and Egypt, an inclusion which some social media users criticised, as it brought the issue of extremism into a month meant to celebrate peace and charity.
The President did use his statement to send a message of united fronts, saying that during his recent visit to Saudi Arabia, he and leaders of more than 50 Muslim nations “gathered to deliver together an emphatic message of partnership for the sake of peace, security, and prosperity for our countries and for the world”.
“I extend my best wishes to Muslims everywhere for a blessed month as you observe the Ramadan traditions of charity, fasting, and prayer,” Trump added.