President Donald Trump has now officially become the first president in nearly two decades to not host an iftar dinner marking the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Instead of continuing with the tradition that began under President Bill Clinton, Trump and first lady Melania Trump released a statement wishing “warm greetings to Muslims as they celebrate Eid al-Fitr.” Eid al-Fitr marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan, when Muslims around the world abstain from eating and drinking from dawn until dusk.
The annual White House dinners were typically attended by prominent members of the Muslim community as well as lawmakers and diplomats. The dinners continued uninterrupted after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks as then-President George W. Bush emphasized the country was combating terrorism and not Islam.
“It is disappointing because that’s been a good tradition,” Imam Talib Shareef of the Nation’s Mosque in Washington told Newsweek. “To stop it doesn’t send a good message. You get the chance to go golfing and all this other kind of stuff. How come you don’t have time for a population of your society that needs some assistance? The message that it sends is that we’re not that important.”
When he was campaigning for the presidency, Trump said in an interview that he wouldn’t be opposed to continuing the tradition. “It wouldn’t bother me. It wouldn’t bother me,” Trump said. “It’s not something I’ve given a lot of thought to but it wouldn’t bother me.”
Confirmation that the White House won’t commemorate Ramadan comes shortly after Secretary of State Rex Tillerson also raised eyebrows by refusing to host the annual Ramadan event at the State Department.
Historians believe the first iftar dinner at the White House took place in 1805, when President Thomas Jefferson hosted Sidi Soliman Mellimelli, Tunisia’s envoy to the United States, reports the Washington Post. Although Jefferson’s working dinners usually began at 3:30 p.m., in December 1805 the invitations noted that “dinner will be on the table precisely at sun-set.”