STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

Muslim American: Trump using iftar dinner as a prop

The White House will host its first iftar dinner, the sundown meal that breaks fasts during the holy month of Ramadan, but some Muslim leaders say they are reluctant to break bread with President Trump.

Posted: Jun 7, 2018 7:53 AM
Updated: Jun 7, 2018 7:53 AM

A scene from the horror movie "Get Out." A moment of bloody betrayal -- the dreaded Red Wedding -- from HBO's "Game of Thrones." A medieval painting depicting a huge mouth devouring people as they eat.

On Wednesday, President Donald Trump's White House will host its first iftar, the sundown meal that breaks fasts during the holy month of Ramadan. For some American Muslims, it's also time to break out the horror-movie memes.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said "30 to 40" people had been invited to the iftar, though Trump administration officials haven't yet released a guest list or divulged many details about the event.

On Wednesday, a White House spokesperson said Trump will host the iftar dinner in the State Dining Room at 8 p.m. ET "for the Washington diplomatic community."

In years past, White House iftars have invited not only diplomats but dozens of American Muslims from civil society, including corporate executives, scholars, activists and athletes.

But many American Muslims say they are reluctant to break bread with Trump, citing the President's rhetoric and actions toward Muslims and other religious and racial minorities.

"We do not need an iftar dinner," said Imam Yahya Hendi, the Muslim chaplain at Georgetown University. "Rather, we need to get the respect we highly deserve. Do not feed us and stab us."

Hendi attended a White House iftar in 2009, when President Barack Obama was in office. He said he was not invited this year. Like many prominent Muslims who have attended previous White House iftars, Hendi said he would not attend if invited this year.

Many American Muslims said they suspect Trump's iftar is aimed at placating the country's allies overseas, rather than making genuine connections with their community, with whom the president has had a troubled relationship.

"I was not invited to the White House iftar, but I would not attend if I were," said Dalia Mogahed, director of research at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding.

"Attending this event, especially during the holy month, a time of introspection and spiritual growth, would be inappropriate in my view as it would appear to normalize this administration's behavior."

The Council on American-Islamic Relations plans to hold "NOT Trump's Iftar" event outside the White House as the main event is taking place inside.

A White House spokesperson declined to respond to a request for comment about the criticism.

Noting that Trump was also criticized for not hosting an iftar at the White House last year, CNN's Kate Bolduan asked Ziad Ahmed, a student activist, if Wednesday's event could be seen as a positive step.

"Has he apologized for saying 'Islam hate us?'" Ahmed answered. "Has he changed his policies? Has he retracted the (travel) ban? He hasn't changed his rhetoric on anything."

Obama took heat, too

Hillary Clinton is generally credited with starting the modern-day tradition of yearly White House iftars in 1996. Since then, controversy over the dinners has ebbed and flowed with world events.

Shortly after the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington, President George W. Bush tried to quell religious tension by praising Islam.

"All the world continues to benefit from this faith and its achievements," Bush said that November. "Ramadan and the upcoming holiday season are a good time for people of different faiths to learn more about each other. And the more we learn, the more we find that many commitments are broadly shared."

Even Obama, who was seen as an ally by many American Muslims, sparked fierce debates about the morality of participating in an White House iftar.

Some Muslims were upset by his drone program that targeted suspected terrorists, others that he failed to keep his promise to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay. In 2014, Obama was criticized for inviting Israel's ambassador and defending its use of force to protect its people from Hamas rockets.

"There was a healthy amount of debate every year over this when Obama was president," said Dilshad Ali, a managing editor at Patheos.com, a religion website. "And he was a pretty decent president."

Trump, Ali said, is another matter.

"I don't know anyone who would go to this iftar. It's quite clear that Muslims are not a community that Trump is looking out for."

Muslims wary of being 'tokenized'

During his presidential campaign, Trump angered many American Muslims by making incendiary statements such as "I think Islam hates us" and promising to temporarily ban Muslim immigration as a counterterrorism measure.

According to a 2017 Pew Research Center Survey, 74% of American Muslims say Trump is unfriendly to their community and two-thirds say he makes them feel worried. Just 8% of American Muslims voted for Trump.

Since Trump's election, American Muslims have been further angered by a series of executive orders severely curtailing refugees and immigrants from several Muslim-majority countries, moves many see as an enactment of his promised "Muslim ban."

Trump's retweet of anti-Muslim videos by a far-right British party continued to fan the flames. He has also stocked his administration with men, such as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and national security adviser John Bolton, who have ties to groups that promote Islamophobia.

Omar Noureldin, vice president and spokesman for the Muslim Public Affairs Council, said that, in contrast to past years, no one from his council was invited to Wednesday's iftar. If they were, they would decline the invitation, he said.

"Our model of engagement with the government is that we have to believe we can move the needle in some respect, and given the policy and rhetoric from this White House, we don't believe that's possible, so we wouldn't put ourselves in the position to be 'tokenized.' "

Who's coming for dinner?

For many American Muslims, deciding whether or not to attend Trump's iftar is a relatively easy question. The harder question to answer is: who is going?

Many people assume that, as in past years, the guest list will be stocked with Cabinet officials and foreign diplomats, particularly from Muslim-majority countries. But no one really knows for sure. Even prominent Trump supporters say they didn't get an invite.

"It's for Muslim ambassadors and some Cabinet members," said Sajid Tarar, who led the group "American Muslims for Trump" and spoke at the Republican National Convention in 2016.

Qamar-ul Huda, a former State Department adviser on religion, said diplomats and Cabinet members were also regulars at other administrations' iftar dinners, though American Muslims from civil society have often been invited as well.

"I think it's just a symbolic showing of appreciation for certain allies, particularly in the Gulf," Huda said of Trump's iftar. "I don't think it's geared toward the American Muslim community at all."

That kind of thinking feeds notions of Islam as a "foreign" religion, Huda said, "a religion from overseas. Not a religion that has been here for three hundred years."

Still, Huda said he would have attended Trump's iftar, if he had been invited.

"I think whoever is in government should have access to sound advice. Others close to me would say, 'No way, you'd sacrifice your integrity."

For Eboo Patel, the founder of Interfaith Youth Core, interfaith iftars are part of his daily bread. But even he said he would have trouble accepting an invitation from Trump's White House.

Wednesday night is Lailutul Qadar, the night Patel, an Ismaili Muslim, commemorates the first revelation of the Quran to the Prophet Muhammad. It's his favorite religious event of the year.

"So I would politely decline if I were invited to the Trump White House iftar," Patel said. And if tomorrow night were not Lailutul Qadar?

"I would still politely decline."

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 891099

Reported Deaths: 9406
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin1743652015
Ramsey720081036
Dakota65596566
Anoka62204564
Washington39195354
Stearns32672274
St. Louis28594394
Wright25235206
Scott25213181
Olmsted21580127
Sherburne18406126
Carver1620266
Clay11865102
Blue Earth1121766
Rice11172138
Crow Wing10954121
Chisago970675
Kandiyohi9612106
Otter Tail9568124
Benton8767123
Beltrami798592
Goodhue781495
Douglas7642100
Itasca748694
Mower720247
Winona699856
McLeod692983
Isanti678383
Steele666030
Morrison661678
Becker617472
Polk589184
Freeborn548845
Carlton525973
Nobles521254
Lyon517261
Mille Lacs513272
Nicollet507559
Pine498041
Cass490252
Todd480942
Brown463457
Le Sueur443633
Meeker421057
Martin375943
Waseca364232
Wabasha363710
Hubbard348248
Dodge347611
Roseau307631
Fillmore297015
Wadena296239
Redwood276545
Houston264817
Renville263151
Faribault252431
Sibley246117
Pennington245629
Kanabec240834
Cottonwood224132
Aitkin215350
Chippewa215141
Pope201210
Watonwan193720
Yellow Medicine184721
Rock174328
Swift168522
Koochiching165323
Stevens163111
Jackson159016
Clearwater155120
Murray150611
Marshall150521
Pipestone147729
Lake129224
Lac qui Parle119425
Wilkin119015
Mahnomen104514
Norman10299
Grant9679
Big Stone9305
Lincoln8665
Kittson71223
Red Lake70410
Traverse5986
Unassigned550124
Lake of the Woods5235
Cook3000

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 516453

Reported Deaths: 7289
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk80319799
Linn32142424
Scott26637292
Black Hawk21974378
Woodbury20490258
Johnson19778105
Dubuque18515241
Pottawattamie15890213
Dallas15320113
Story1380258
Warren8450104
Cerro Gordo7964123
Clinton7725114
Webster7326122
Des Moines7098105
Marshall669093
Muscatine6645117
Wapello6441144
Jasper619591
Sioux610177
Lee5908105
Marion557897
Buena Vista502149
Plymouth488388
Henry418655
Benton404859
Jones404862
Bremer395372
Washington391463
Boone389739
Carroll367755
Mahaska365365
Crawford353747
Dickinson314655
Jackson307747
Buchanan305741
Clay295536
Delaware294654
Kossuth289077
Fayette286353
Hardin284353
Tama279777
Page272533
Wright266149
Cedar265527
Hamilton259857
Winneshiek258143
Floyd255449
Clayton244459
Poweshiek237243
Madison234525
Harrison234379
Cass233466
Butler232744
Iowa229634
Jefferson223043
Mills220930
Winnebago215938
Hancock214639
Cherokee211347
Lyon206142
Appanoose205357
Allamakee203955
Calhoun196919
Shelby196442
Union191141
Humboldt185130
Grundy183637
Franklin183029
Mitchell182043
Chickasaw178922
Emmet178246
Louisa176953
Sac171026
Guthrie168137
Montgomery161745
Clarke160829
Keokuk150839
Palo Alto150532
Howard146824
Monroe142739
Ida130141
Greene127517
Davis124625
Lucas124426
Monona122939
Worth12139
Pocahontas120724
Adair114337
Osceola104818
Decatur101913
Taylor98514
Fremont95913
Van Buren93222
Wayne84525
Ringgold76729
Audubon74917
Adams5748
Unassigned480
Rochester
Clear
29° wxIcon
Hi: 32° Lo: 12°
Feels Like: 21°
Mason City
Mostly Cloudy
32° wxIcon
Hi: 35° Lo: 12°
Feels Like: 24°
Albert Lea
Partly Cloudy
30° wxIcon
Hi: 34° Lo: 11°
Feels Like: 30°
Austin
Partly Cloudy
32° wxIcon
Hi: 34° Lo: 13°
Feels Like: 27°
Charles City
Cloudy
32° wxIcon
Hi: 34° Lo: 11°
Feels Like: 24°
Mild heading into the weekend
KIMT Radar
KIMT Eye in the sky

Latest Video

Image

Shopping for a Christmas tree

Image

Crowds head to Apache Mall for Black Friday

Image

Sean's Weather 11/26

Image

Black Friday: supporting local this holiday season

Image

"Here comes Santa Claus," event in Rochester tonight

Image

Local shopping for Black Friday in Rochester

Image

Salvation Army Thanksgiving Dinner

Image

Serving food on Thanksgiving

Image

Charles City community member donates Thanksgiving tips to family in need

Image

Being thankful

Community Events