02:37 GMT17 April 2021
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    In a move that may sound surprising, given his many comments and actions against Muslim immigrants and countries, US President Donald Trump hosted a formal dinner Wednesday in celebration of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

    Trump decided to renew an interrupted tradition of US presidents hosting a dinner known as "iftar," which ends the daily fast during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

    The tradition was begun in the 1990s during the Clinton administration as a form of outreach to the Muslim world. Despite the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, President George W Bush hosted ambassadors and diplomats in celebration of Ramadan, declaring "evil has no holy days." His successor, Barack Obama, used the event to show that the West is not at war with Islam as a religion.

    And then came Trump, who broke the tradition last year. Instead of hosting a dinner, the White House issued a statement on the Islamic holiday that focused heavily on the threat of terrorism, noting that recent attacks "steel our resolve to defeat the terrorists and their perverted ideology."

    During his presidential election campaign, Trump called for a "complete and total shutdown" of Muslims entering the US. In January 2017, Trump signed an executive order, dubbed the "Muslim ban," which prohibited people from seven predominantly-Muslim countries from entering the US. Trump's critics also view the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital last December as a provocation aimed at the Muslim world.

    In this light, the decision to host the iftar dinner raised more than few eyebrows.

    According to White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, some 30 to 40 people were expected to attend the feast. Speaking at a press briefing June 5, she did not provide any further details on the event, but said the event would start 8:45 p.m. Wednesday, which is about the time of sunset in Washington, DC.

    During the Ramadan fast, only two meals are allowed: suhur, in the morning before sunrise, and iftar in the evening, right after sunset. The Ramadan fast, which Muslims conduct to show the strength of their faith, takes 29 to 30 days and forbids eating, drinking, smoking, and engaging in sexual activities.

    Several Muslim groups protested the White House's iftar feast and organized a "NOT Trump's Iftar" rally that took place Wednesday in front of the White House.

    The protesters blame Trump's rhetoric for increased bullying and discrimination against American Muslims.


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