Tillerson reportedly declines to host annual Ramadan event
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Tillerson reportedly declines to host annual Ramadan event

Decision breaks longstanding tradition at State Department; agency says still mulling reception to mark Muslim holiday in July

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson leaves after a meeting with EU officials at EU headquarters, on the sidelines of the NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) summit, in Brussels, on May 25, 2017. (AFP/Thierry Charlier)
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson leaves after a meeting with EU officials at EU headquarters, on the sidelines of the NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) summit, in Brussels, on May 25, 2017. (AFP/Thierry Charlier)

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has reportedly declined to host a Ramadan reception at the State Department, breaking a longstanding bipartisan tradition at the agency.

State Department officials told Reuters that Tillerson in April turned down an official request from the Office of Religion and Global Affairs to host a reception to mark the Muslim holy month.

According to the report, the event was billed as an opportunity to “highlight State Department initiatives and the importance of Muslim engagement.” Tillerson was reportedly presented with a range of possible dates.

Both Democratic and Republican secretaries of state have hosted Ramadan events since 1999.

In response to the Friday report, a State Department spokesperson told Reuters the agency was still considering hosting an event to mark the end of the holy month.

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

US President Barack Obama celebrates the Islamic holy month of Ramadan by hosting an iftar dinner in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, Friday, Aug. 10 (photo credit: AP/Susan Walsh)
US President Barack Obama celebrates the Islamic holy month of Ramadan by hosting an iftar dinner in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, Friday, August 10, 2012. (AP/Susan Walsh)

Tillerson’s decision could be met with backlash from American Muslims, given tensions sparked by the Trump administration’s attempted travel ban targeting several Muslim-majority nations and accusations of anti-Islamic rhetoric while campaigning.

Since his election, Trump has softened his rhetoric and US courts have blocked his travel ban, citing anti-Muslim discrimination.

On Friday, Trump released a statement wishing Muslims “a joyful Ramadan,” urging them to use the holy month to reject terrorism and violence by Islamist extremists.

“This year, the holiday begins as the world mourns the innocent victims of barbaric terrorist attacks in the United Kingdom and Egypt, acts of depravity that are directly contrary to the spirit of Ramadan,” said Trump, whose revised travel ban was once again rejected by a US court this week on grounds of religious discrimination.

During Ramadan, Muslims around the world abstain from eating, drinking, smoking and having sex from dawn to dusk. The month is sacred to Muslims because tradition says it marks the period when the Koran was revealed to the Prophet Mohammed.

The month-long holiday began on Saturday in many countries.

AFP contributed to this report.

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