The canceling of the annual White House Iftar dinner this year has become a slap in the face to Muslim-Americans all over the country, and I am one of them. Sitting idly as the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, a time designated to a fast from sunrise to sunset and empathizing with the less fortunate, passes by, (May 26th-June 24th) President Trump has neglected an unspoken duty as President and indirectly canceled the Iftar dinner that brings together diplomats, elected officials, and most importantly the young generation of Muslim-Americans who will contribute to the future of this country and world.
The dinner came to life again and became an annual White House event when First Lady, Hillary Clinton saw the value of the original actions of President Thomas Jefferson, in 1996 when he pushed the dinner time to sunset so a Muslim guest could eat with fellow dinner mates.
Some say, “Well at least he sent out a statement acknowledging the month of Ramadan,” but this mindset is succumbing to the universal thought that Trump’s role as President should be held to a lower standard compared to any past president of the United States.
The statement published by President Trump and wife, Melania acknowledges the holy month that has passed, but fails to confront the fact that the tradition was looked over by the Trump administration.
As I one day dreamed of being an attendee of this lavish dinner, my hopes have been crushed by the flagrant disregard of our President. If even President George W. Bush was able to hold the Iftar dinner after the 911 attacks that created even more tension in the lives of Americans, what makes Trump different?
Trump’s actions have drawn an even darker line with the Muslim-American community, reminding them that not only is he dissimilar to past presidents but also that he and his administration are aiming to keep a distance from the traditional values of America. According to former President Obama he said at the 2016 Iftar dinner, the “... Iftar is also a reminder of the freedoms that bind us together as Americans, including freedom of religion- that inviolable right to practice our faiths freely.”
However, how are Muslim-Americans supposed to feel welcome to practice their religion in America while Trump’s presidency has promoted the banning of 7 Muslim countries, many of which American citizens originally come from?
In a phone call with a personal friend of mine and former attendee of the 2016 White House Iftar Dinner, Ziad Ahmed, he commented on the cancellation stating that “It’s predictable and expected and underscores his anti-Muslim bigotry and disdain for our community.”
Muslim-American teens such as Ziad and I, realize just how important it is that our voices are heard. Advocating the universal disappointment of this incident is merely one step.
Yet, the not so obvious aspects that contributed to this impromptu cancellation of a presidential tradition is a reminder of the other perpetrators of the decision. Alongside Trump are alarming members of state who according to the Brennan Center of Justice “have targeted Muslims through both speech and policy, tangibly harming the American Muslim community, in at least five forms: the use of anti-Muslim rhetoric,”. More notably “the elevation of Islamophobic staff members to key positions in the White House” has bolstered an Islamophobic mindset to the Trump Administration.
The steps taken by Trump himself and those at his side are not at all suggestive of an inclusive environment for Muslim-Americans to practice their faith freely.
Moreover, Trump has contradicted his actions before ensuring that his political ties are stable with countries like Saudi Arabia. As he visited the Muslim country on May 24th (Al Jazeera) how could he ‘forget’ the holy month and allow it to pass by?
While my Saudi friends snapchatted me and sent messages wishing me safe travels to the states, they highlighted the fact that they hoped Trump’s visit was out of good conscious and not another political agenda. After the Iftar Dinner cancellation, it's hard to read that sentence without a smile and a sarcastic tone. Who are we kidding? There is not an inch of hope that President Trump has goods intentions in mind when he has cancelled an event that provides a platform for healthy conversation and community involvement.
Now more than ever is when American-Muslims, who make up 3.3 million of the American population, urgently need platforms such as the traditional White House Iftar Dinner to congregate with members of the political community and voice their worries and concerns. Seeing the significance of an event like this and just how reflective it is of America’s core values is demonstrative of an open mindset and hopes of bringing the American population closer together, something that is clearly not part of Trump’s agenda as president.