Rex Tillerson Declines to Host Ramadan Celebration at State Department

Obama Ramadan Charles DharapakAP
Charles Dharapak/AP

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has declined to host an event to celebrate the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, ending a bipartisan tradition of marking the occasion for nearly 20 years, Reuters has revealed.

Tillerson rejected a recommendation from the State Department’s Office of Religion and Global Affairs that he host a reception marking Eid-al-Fitr.However, a representative for the State Department said that they are still considering options to celebrate the Islamic holy month.

“We are still exploring possible options for the observance of Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of the month of Ramadan. U.S. ambassadors are encouraged to celebrate Ramadan through a variety of activities, which are held annually at missions around the world,” the spokesperson said.

On Friday, Tillerson issued a statement describing Ramadan as “a month of reverence, generosity, and self-reflection.”

“Most importantly, it is a cherished time for family and friends to gather and give charity to those who are less fortunate,” Tillerson said.

Rabiah Ahmed, a spokeswoman for the Muslim Public Affairs Council in Washington, which is normally invited to the event, said they had received no invitation from the State Department to any events marking Ramadan.

“If they’re having one, we haven’t been invited,” Ahmed said.

Tillerson’s decision could mark a new hostility towards Islam from the White House, amid a tougher approach towards radicalization and terrorism under the Trump administration. However, Trump has maintained that he is only opposed to radical strains of the religion, and does not specifically object to Islam or Muslims themselves.

The tradition of hosting a Ramadan event was initiated by Secretary of State Madeleine Albright under Bill Clinton and has been repeated yearly by every administration since. The department also marks the Hindu festival of Diwali, while the White House hosts events at Christmas and Easter as well as during the Jewish holiday of Passover.

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