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MUHAMMAD: Why I'm Boycotting White House Ramadan Dinner

Askia Muhammad | 7/16/2014, 3 p.m.
I cannot stomach the idea of attending the White House Islamic event to watch the duplicitous and hypocritical pronouncements of ...
Askia Muhammad

Why am I boycotting this year’s White House Ramadan dinner? Well, “boycott” might be too strong a word since as a reporter I’m not officially invited to the soirée in the first place. But as far back as presidents have been hosting dinners called “Iftar” for special guests to break their fast during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, I’ve attended more often than not.

During Ramadan, when the world’s 2 billion Muslims go without food or drink from dawn until dusk, the evening meal when the fast is broken is called “Iftar.” Going back to President George W. Bush in 2001, I have arranged each year to attend the events. At first the guests were limited to ambassadors from Islamic countries.

Those early Iftar events were intended to reach out to representatives from the Muslim world to show that the U.S. does not hate the Muslims. It was not intended for domestic consumption and even though I had a White House “hard pass” credential the first Iftar dinners were not “open press” coverage, but were limited to selected “pool reporters” made up of press members from the affected countries, so they could beam the message to their audiences that the POTUS (President Of The United States) was entertaining Muslims to break the fast with them during Ramadan.

But I managed to get admitted to the select “pool” and attended. Once, when he was leaving his post to get treatment for cancer, I even held hands with my friend and Presidential Press Secretary Tony Snow and I prayed a Muslim prayer with him on the White House grounds. Although I was like a fish out of water in the White House Press Room, I never betrayed my Muslim roots.

When President Barack Obama entered the White House the Iftar tradition continued, but I had lost my “hard pass” press privileges because most of the time I treated the place like the “news free zone” that it is, and did not spend every waking hour in the place where few news stories of pertinence to Black folks happen every day, as compared to the events on Capitol Hill where there are 40 Black members in the Congressional Black Caucus. But I continued to work mightily to get approved for the pool which covered President Obama’s Iftar. And I attended them.

But this year, I cannot stomach the idea of attending the White House Islamic event to watch the duplicitous and hypocritical pronouncements of even-handedness toward the Muslim world while the White House gives Israel the green light to brutally trample Muslim rights and stamp out the lives of Palestinian Muslims in Gaza, a territory which Israel illegally occupies by force.

“Let me start by saying that we strongly condemn the continuing rocket fire into Israel and the deliberate targeting of civilians by terrorist organizations in Gaza,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest declared July 9. “No country can accept rocket fire aimed at civilians, and we support Israel’s right to defend itself against these vicious attacks.”