Biden’s iftar event met with boycott, counter-protest outside White House

The White House has held a scaled-down iftar dinner to celebrate Islam’s holy month of Ramadan, after many invitees turned the president down over frustrations in the Muslim community over his policy toward the Israel’s brutal war on Gaza.

Several Muslim leaders were expected to attend Tuesday’s meeting with US President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, Muslim government officials and national security leaders. The White House did not name them. Some people who had attended events in previous years, such as Mayor Abdullah Hammoud of Dearborn, Michigan, were not invited.

Many Muslims, Arabs and anti-war activists have been angry with the administration’s support for Israel and its military invasion in Gaza that has killed tens of thousands and caused a starvation crisis in the narrow coastal enclave of about 2.3 million people.

Thaer Ahmad was among those invited to the White House for a scaled-back meeting.

“It was disappointing that I was the only Palestinian in attendance, and out of respect for my community who is mourning and suffering,” Ahmad told HuffPost. “I told the president that I’m going to leave. He told me he understood why I needed to leave.”

Last year, Biden hadn’t even spoken a word at the White House celebration of Ramadan before someone shouted out “we love you.” Hundreds of Muslims were there to mark the end of the holy month that requires fasting from sunrise to sunset.

There were no such joyous scenes during this Ramadan. With many Muslim Americans outraged over Biden’s support for Israel’s siege of Gaza, the White House chose to hold a smaller iftar dinner on Tuesday evening. The only attendees were the people who work for his administration.

“We’re just in a different world,” said Wa’el Alzayat, who leads Emgage, a Muslim advocacy organisation. “It’s completely surreal. And it’s sad.”

Alzayat attended last year’s event, but he declined an invitation to break his fast with Biden this year, saying, “It’s inappropriate to do such a celebration while there’s a famine going on in Gaza.”

After rejections from Alzayat and others, he said the White House adjusted its plans on Monday, telling community leaders that it wanted to host a meeting focusing on administration policy. Alzayat still said no, believing that one day was not enough time to prepare for an opportunity to sway Biden’s mind on the conflict.

AFPPro-Palestinian demonstrators pray as they gather near the White House to call for a ceasefire in Gaza during a protest as part of the “People’s White House Ceasefire Now Iftar” outside the White House on April 2, 2024 in Washington, DC. 

(Source: TRT WORLD)