Ending a bipartisan tradition, Rex Tillerson will be the first Secretary of State in nearly two-decades not to host an event commemorating the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which begins Saturday.
Reuters reported that since 1999, Republican and Democratic secretaries of state have hosted either an iftar dinner to break the day’s fast during Ramadan or a reception marking the Eid al-Fitr holiday at the end of the month, at the State Department.
Tillerson turned down a request from the State Department’s Office of Religion and Global Affairs to host an Eid al-Fitr reception as part of Ramadan celebrations, according to two U.S. officials.
“We are still exploring possible options for observance of Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of the month of Ramadan,” said a State Department spokesperson. “U.S. ambassadors are encouraged to celebrate Ramadan through a variety of activities, which are held annually at missions around the world.”
Muslim groups and advocates have criticized President Donald Trump for being anti-Islam, citing his campaign rhetoric , calls for surveillance of mosques and attempts to ban citizens of several Muslim-majority countries from traveling to the United States.
Tillerson’s decision to skip a Ramadan event could send a message “that it is not as important to this administration to engage with Muslims,” said former U.S. diplomat Farah Pandith, who served in the Bush and Obama administrations and helped plan Ramadan events at the White House and State Department.
Before being selected as a member of Trump’s cabinet, Secretary of State Tillerson was chief executive officer of Exxon Mobile Corp.
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