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Trump hosts first iftar dinner at White House

Trump hosts first iftar dinner at White House

"We think it's the height of hypocrisy for Donald Trump to ban Muslims with one hand and then invite lead diplomats into the White House and break fast with them", Bilal Askaryar, one of the protesters, told AFP.

"We want to point out the hypocrisy of the White House's iftar after they skip it for a year, then launch a Muslim ban, implement extreme vetting, increase surveillance of Muslims in the United States and then act like we're all friends", said Robert McCaw, director of government affairs for the Council of American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).

Trump did not host an iftar dinner past year, breaking a tradition started by the Clinton administration and maintained through the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations.

Also in attendance were ambassadors from the UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait, Egypt, Libya, Iraq, Morocco and Algeria.

This year's event has been criticized by some Muslims and others who oppose the president's policies such as the travel ban imposed on five predominantly Muslim countries, a national-security case which is being challenged in the Supreme Court, with a ruling expected soon.

However, the Trump administration a year ago broke the decades of precedent by forgoing the annual iftar dinner but surprisingly announced that there would be one for Wednesday.

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Iftar dinners have been held regularly at the White House since the Clinton administration as a form of outreach to the Muslim world.

The protesters blame Trump's rhetoric for increased bullying and discrimination against American Muslims.

During his presidential campaign, Trump called for a "complete and total shutdown" of Muslims entering the United States.

In November, Trump drew widespread condemnation for retweeting a series of anti-Muslim videos from the ultranationalist far-right group Britain First. And his decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital was seen by many critics as an unnecessary provocation in the Muslim world. But when news emerged that it would resume the tradition, questions arose as to who would be attending as the White House kept the list quiet. The iftar dinner is traditionally held at sundown, breaking the fast.

President Barack Obama took up the tradition, saying that discriminating against Muslim Americans "feeds the lie" that the West is at war with their religion. It also affects two non-Muslim countries, blocking travelers from North Korea and some Venezuelan government officials and their families.