Tonight, President Donald J. Trump is scheduled to have Ramadan iftar with American Muslims at the White House – an annual tradition since Bill Clinton’s presidency that Trump skipped last year. But given Trump’s anti-Muslim policy and rhetoric, the Muslim community is pushing back.
Iftar is the practice of breaking fast at sundown during Ramadan, which is the holiest month of the year for Muslims. Those who fast don’t eat or drink anything from sunrise until sundown. It’s a month that requires patience, but for many American Muslims, Trump’s harmful words and actions make him unworthy of their time.
“We do not need an iftar dinner,” Imam Yahya Hendi, the Muslim chaplain at Georgetown University, told CNN. “Rather, we need to get the respect we highly deserve. Do not feed us and stab us.”
Hendi, who attended a White House iftar in 2009 under President Obama’s administration, is right.
Trump has attempted three iterations of a Muslim ban and in doing so, his policy has inhumanly separated families and isolated people in need of escaping war-torn countries – all because they came from a Muslim-majority country. Trump has continued to prove his disdain for Muslim communities not only by implementing the ban he vowed while on the campaign trail but through his rhetoric.
Trump has demonized Muslims through rhetoric to justify his ill-considered ban. From his “Islam hates us” quote, to his propaganda tweets, his rhetoric on Muslims has continued to marginalize them as “other” and “un-American.”
In his second version of the ban, his administration justified banning Muslims because they fell under the category of those “who would oppress Americans of any race, gender, or sexual orientation.”
This was contrary to a Pew Research Center poll that revealed that a majority of Muslim Americans are accepting of the LGBTQ community. (It’s also ironic given that the most anti-LGBTQ base in America is the Religious Right, which consists of predominantly white evangelicals who continue to be the most loyal of Trump’s supporters.)
Throughout his presidency thus far, Trump has been utilizing his Twitter account to fuel anti-Muslim sentiment. One of the more dangerous examples was when he retweeted anti-Muslim propaganda videos that turned out to be fake.
Recklessly spreading fake news on his Twitter account sparks hostility toward Muslim Americans. There are many more tweets proving Trump’s anti-Muslim animus, and they’re especially dangerous given that hate speech and crimes against Muslims and those perceived to be Muslim have been on the rise since Trump was a candidate and through his presidency.
According to South Asian Americans Living Together (SAALT), a nonprofit that advocates for the civil rights of the South Asian community in the United States, between Nov. 9, 2016, and Nov. 7, 2017, more than 300 incidents of violence and xenophobic hate speech aimed at South Asian, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, Middle Eastern and Arab communities in the U.S. were reported. The majority of the perpetrators intended harm because they perceived their victims to be Muslim.
That’s why Muslims like Dalia Mogahed, the director of research at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding, told CNN that although she wasn’t invited to the event, she wouldn’t attend it even if she was, given Trump’s actions. (Although the Trump administration has not released a guest list for the iftar, “30 to 40” people were invited, according to White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.)
“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,” Mogahed said.
When asked this year if he regrets any of his anti-Muslim rhetoric, Trump insisted that “there's no reason to apologize… I think if I apologized, it wouldn’t make 10 cents worth of difference to them.”
Well, clearly it makes “10 cents worth of difference” to many American Muslims. Tonight, Muslims and allies will be outside the White House while the iftar is happening to protest Trump’s mistreatment of Muslims in an iftar called “NOT Trump's Iftar.”
Trump can host iftars annually for the rest of his presidency, but if he wants to improve his relationship with American Muslim communities, he’s got a long road ahead of him.