In a move that may sound surprising, given his many comments and actions against Muslim immigrants and countries, US President Donald Trump hosted a formal dinner Wednesday in celebration of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
An hour to sunset, the road leading to the White House was cordoned off as guests from the diplomatic community began arriving.
Ambassadors were invited from the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Morocco, Algeria and Libya. At the head table, Trump sat with Saudi Ambassador Prince Khalid Ben Salman, and Jordanian Ambassador Dina Kawar.
Instead, Trump spoke of "the renewed bonds of friendship and cooperation" forged with "valued partners" from across the Middle East and said Iftars "mark the coming together of families and friends to celebrate a timeless message of peace, clarity and love". That was one of the great two days of my life.
"We are here to mark the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, a great month, a lot of great friends", Trump said.
United States presidents have previously hosted iftar dinners at the White House for foreign diplomats, Cabinet officials and Muslim leaders from civil society organisations in honour of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.
Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said she expected about 30 to 40 people to attend the after dinner, which breaks a daylong fast.
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The White House did not host an iftar dinner previous year, breaking a tradition upheld since 1996. Muslim leaders, however, want respect, not a dinner. Many demanded an apology from the president for anti-Muslim rhetoric which they blamed for a rise in Islamophobic attacks.
When the White House confirmed earlier this week that Trump would, in fact, host the event this year, most Muslim civic organisations were caught off guard.
Several Muslim-American groups, however, staged a "NOT Trump's Iftar" protest near the White House. The groups say Trump's heated rhetoric has contributed to an increase in bullying and discrimination against Muslim Americans.
Hannah Wahaid, a North Virginia resident who joined the iftar, voiced disapproval that those who "work" for the country were not included.
The iftar was the first of its kind to be held by Trump, with the president having declined to hold one in his first year in office.
Even Republican and Trump-supporting Muslim groups were not invited.
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