For the second year in a row, the Trump administration largely excluded American Muslims from a White House celebration of Islam’s holiest month.
“Once again, the White House refuses to acknowledge the existence and contributions of American Muslims at the annual White House Iftar,” the Muslim Public Affairs Council lamented in a blog post Monday. Iftar is the nightly break-fast meal held after sunset during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
The modern White House Iftar dinner tradition began during the Clinton administration and continued through three presidencies, though Trump declined to hold a dinner in his first year in office. After the White House resumed the tradition in 2018, Vox reported that “no Muslim-American leaders or activists appear to have attended the dinner.”
The White House declined on Tuesday to share its invitation list for the event, another contrast with the Obama administration. But statements from Trump’s press team indicate American Muslims were largely left out.
“The President hosted an Iftar dinner at the White House for Ambassadors and members of the diplomatic corps representing countries with significant Muslim populations,” White House deputy press secretary Judd Deere said in an email.
That precisely matched the President’s language in brief remarks he made at the dinner. After shouting out several members of his Cabinet in attendance, Trump thanked “many of the ambassadors and members of the diplomatic corps representing countries with large Muslim populations.”
Trump on Monday sat next to Vlora Çitaku, Kosovo’s ambassador to the United States, among others.
A spokesperson for Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) told TPM that the congresswoman was not invited to Monday’s Iftar dinner. Spokespeople for Congress’s two other Muslim members, Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and André Carson (D-IN), did not respond to requests for comment.
Nihad Awad, the Executive Director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, wrote on Twitter that the White House “[cut] out American Muslim community leaders” from the dinner.
Robert McCaw, the group’s director of government affairs, told TPM in a phone interview that he didn’t know of any Muslim American leaders who attended the dinner. He said the group heard about one invitation being extended to an American Muslim, who he described as politically conservative, but he couldn’t confirm the person had actually attended.
“By the way,” McCaw said, referring to Trump’s latest smear against Tlaib, “I think it’s ridiculous that Trump holds an Iftar the same day he openly attacks a Muslim member of Congress with false accusations of anti-Semitism.”