源 稿 窗
Yuni Salim, Mike Bowman, and Katherine Gypson contributed to this report.
THE WHITE HOUSE — U.S. President Donald Trump called it his "great privilege" to welcome ambassadors and diplomats from Muslim-majority nations to the White House for an iftar dinner Monday marking the end of fasting observed by Muslims during the holy month of Ramadan.
He highlighted Ramadan as "a time of charity, of giving and service to our fellow citizens," and one in which to become closer as families and communities.
"Ramadan is a time when people joined forces in pursuit of hope, tolerance, and peace. It is in this spirit that we come together tonight," Trump said.
This is the president’s second iftar. In 2017 Trump broke the tradition that President Bill Clinton started in 1996 and did not host a reception.
Like last year, American Muslim organizations and lawmakers were not part of the guest list.
'We would have declined anyway'
During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump called for a complete ban on all Muslims entering the United States and has signed multiple executive orders restricting immigration from Muslim-majority countries.
American Muslim groups claim they feel targeted by the president’s rhetoric and policies, and say they would have declined had they been invited.
“It would be very, very awkward for us to be there, in the presence of a president who is anti-Muslim, anti-immigrants, who supports white supremacy, and racist policies against communities of color and minorities,” said Nihad Awad, Executive Director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), America's largest Muslim civil liberties advocacy organization.
American Muslim organizations have attended past iftars under Clinton, Bush and Obama, although many of them boycotted during the start of the Iraq war.
Members of Congress of the Islamic faith have been present in past iftars, but lawmakers Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib were absent Monday night. In the past month, Trump has tweeted attacks on Omar and Tlaib, the first two American Muslim women to win Congressional seats.
Engie Mohsen, Policy Program Manager of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, a national American Muslim advocacy and public policy organization said the absence of American Muslim groups and lawmakers demonstrates “how the president does not see American Muslims as part of America.”
Mohsen accused the administration of purposefully portraying American Muslims "as an other” and the administration’s statements and actions “repeatedly spread falsehoods about Muslims and Islam.”
Mohsen and Awad pointed to the rise in hate crimes since Trump took office.
Awad said CAIR has tracked “unprecedented hate against Muslims,” claiming Islamophobia has been legitimized and normalized through this president and his administration's policies.”
Despite tense relations with the nation's Muslim community, Trump closed his remarks by saying America is a nation founded on the belief that citizens of all faiths can live together.
Patsy Widakuswara is VOA's Senior White House Correspondent. She joined Voice of America in March 2003. With over 20 years experience in international broadcast journalism, she currently reports via multi-media platforms from the White House where she focuses on delivering informative, engaging U.S. content to an international audience.