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  • An iftar gathering earlier this month in Turkey.

    An iftar gathering earlier this month in Turkey. | Photo: Reuters

Published 25 June 2017

“It is disappointing because that’s been a good tradition,” Imam Talib Shareef said. "The message that it sends is that we’re not that important".

Yesterday U.S. President Donald Trump broke away from a nearly two-decade tradition of hosting an iftar dinner to commemorate Ramadan – the Islamic holy month of fasting.

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The White House confirmed in an email to Newsweek that it would not be hosting an iftar dinner and referred to Trump's earlier issued statement at the start of Ramadan, which ends on Sunday.

“On behalf of the American people,” the statement said, “Melania and I send our warm greetings to Muslims as they celebrate Eid al-Fitr.”

Eid al-Fitr had been celebrated with dinners hosted by three previous administrations.

“It is disappointing because that’s been a good tradition,” Imam Talib Shareef of the Nation’s Mosque in Washington, D.C., 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.”

Shareef attended three iftars during the Obama Administration. 

“He's (Trump) only embraced a part of it. Now, as president, he is required to embrace the whole of America,” Shareef stated.

The iftar or fast-breaking dinner is usually attended by high-ranking members of the Muslim community, diplomats and Congress members.

The tradition began under former President Bill Clinton's Administration and continued through George W. Bush and Barack Obama tenures.

“Muslims in the United States joined those around the world during the holy month of Ramadan to focus on acts of faith and charity,” Trump's statement had said. “During this holiday, we are reminded of the importance of mercy, compassion and goodwill. With Muslims around the world, the United States renews our commitment to honor these values.” Trump concluded the statement with the traditional Muslim greeting “Eid Mubarak” which means “blessed celebration.” 

More than a 1.5 billion Muslims across the globe celebrate Eid al-Fitr, which literally translates to “festival of breaking the fast.” It closes the month of Ramadan, when observing Muslims would abstain from food, water and immoral acts from dawn until dusk.

Since entering the White House, the U.S. president has faced very strong criticism regarding his negative portrayal of Muslims. His views of the community led to a temporary travel ban, which has been repeatedly blocked, that restricted several Muslim-majority countries in the Middle East from entering the U.S.

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