US secretary of state Tillerson declines to host Ramzan reception: Sources
Tillerson’s five predecessors have hosted either an Iftar dinner to break the fast during Ramzan, or an Eid ul-Fitr reception at the end of the month-long holiday, the CNN reported.Updated: May 28, 2017 18:18 IST
Press Trust of India, Washington
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has declined to host a Ramzan reception, apparently breaking a nearly two-decade long bipartisan tradition.
According to two administration officials familiar with the decision, Tillerson rejected a request by the State Department’s Office of Religion and Global Affairs to host the reception marking the Eid ul-Fitr, the end of the holy month of Ramzan, which begins Saturday in many countries.
Since 1999, Tillerson’s five Republican and Democratic predecessors have hosted either an Iftar dinner to break the fast during Ramazan, or an Eid ul-Fitr reception at the end of the month-long holiday, the CNN reported.
Many diplomatic posts overseas also host events during Ramzan’s month of fasting and prayer.
The White House and State Department commemorate other religious traditions, including a Jewish Passover Seder, as well as Christmas and Easter holidays.
But the Ramzan event, usually attended by members of Congress, diplomats from Muslim countries, Muslim community leaders and top US officials has become a symbol of US efforts to engage with the Muslim world.
“We are still exploring possible options for observance of Eid ul-Fitr, which marks the end of the month of Ramzan,” a State Department spokesman said.
“US ambassadors are encouraged to celebrate Ramzan through a variety of activities, which are held annually at missions around the world,” the spokesman said.
It is unclear whether Tillerson’s decision not to plan an event -- which is usually put on the calendar weeks, if not months, in advance -- was related to his ongoing streamlining of the agency, which includes massive budget cuts and shedding as many of 2,000 jobs.
Offices like the one dealing with religious outreach are widely expected to be scrapped as part of the restructuring, although no final decisions have been made.
On Friday, Tillerson had issued a statement marking the start of Ramzan, calling the holiday “a month of reverence, generosity, and self-reflection.”
“Most importantly, it is a cherished time for family and friends to gather and give charity to those who are less fortunate. This time reminds us all of the common values of harmony and empathy we hold dear,” he added.
The statement starkly contrasted with one issued by President Donald Trump. While wishing Muslims a joyful Ramzan, the President referenced this week’s terrorist attack in Manchester, England, calling the bombing at a concert “directly contrary to the spirit” of the holiday.
“At its core, the spirit of Ramzan strengthens awareness of our shared obligation to reject violence, to pursue peace, and to give to those in need who are suffering from poverty or conflict,” Trump’s statement had said.
First Published: May 28, 2017 18:17 IST