Breaking a nearly 20-year tradition of celebrating the Islam holy month of Ramadan by the State Department, secretary of state Rex Tillerson turned down a request from the State Department’s Office of Religion and Global Affairs to host an Eid al-Fitr reception. According to a memo dated April 6 that was leaked to the press by two U.S. officials who declined to be identified because they were not authorized to speak publicly.
The month-long observance of Ramadan, which includes fasting and prayer, begins on Saturday.
A State Department spokesperson said that the office is “still exploring possible options for observance of Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of the month of Ramadan,” noting, “U.S. ambassadors are encouraged to celebrate Ramadan through a variety of activities, which are held annually at missions around the world.”
When Muslim activists accused the Trump administration of not being friendly towards Islam, aides pointed out that the President just made a successful trip to Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam, where he addressed the leaders of more than 50 Muslim countries.
In the past, the State Department’s Ramadan event was seen as a “symbol of the U.S. government’s diplomatic efforts with Muslim countries and people,” according to Reuters.
Former U.S. diplomat Farah Pandith used to help organize the Ramadan events for both the Bush and Obama administrations and expressed concern about the message Tillerson will be sending by not hosting an event this year.
In a statement issued by Tillerson to mark the event, he called Ramadan “a month of reverence, generosity, and self-reflection.”
He added, “Most importantly, it is a cherished time for family and friends to gather and give charity to those who are less fortunate.”
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