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08 June 2018, 11:16 | Darnell Patrick
Trump set to host first iftar dinner today
President Trump is hosting his first Iftar dinner Wednesday night at the White House to mark one of the religious observances of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, a gesture that was met with surprise and criticism among some U.S. Muslims.
He added that if the Trump administration wanted a dialogue with American Muslims then "why are they meeting with foreign leaders?"
Donald Trump, during the 2016 campaign, called for a complete ban on Muslims entering the United States and has signed multiple executive orders restricting immigration from Muslim-majority countries.
US President Donald Trump speaks at an iftar dinner, which breaks a daylong fast, celebrating Islam's holy month of Ramadan, in the State Dining Room of the White House, June 6, 2018, in Washington.
Ambassadors were invited from the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Tunisia, Iraq, Bahrain, Morocco, Algeria and Libya.
Last year, Trump broke with decades of precedent by not hosting the annual Iftar dinner - a bipartisan tradition that formally began with Bill Clinton in the 1990s but has conceptual roots tracing as far back as under Thomas Jefferson in 1805.
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"We are hoping to share Ramadan and iftar with the American people and point out the hypocrisy", Robert Stephen McCaw, director of government affairs at the Council of American-Islamic Relations, said outside the White House.
Many of them announced that they would hold a parallel Iftar dinner outside the White House.
But he urged the administration "to actively engage on issues impacting our beneficiaries", including the travel ban and proposed cuts to social welfare programs.
Shortly after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, President George W Bush hosted ambassadors and diplomats in celebration of Ramadan, declaring "evil has no holy days". And his decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital was seen by many critics as an unnecessary provocation in the Muslim world. His successor, Barack Obama, used the event to show that the West is not at war with Islam as a religion. There used to be an iftar dinner in the White House which took him almost 17 months to discover that.
The White House dinner was also attended by President Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, Vice President Mike Pence, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.
Trump has come under fire in the past for his statements and policies on Muslims, including a travel ban that prevents citizens from many Muslim-majority countries from entering the US.
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