WASHINGTON: US President Joe Biden is hosting a subdued, significantly scaled-back Iftar gathering at the White House on Tuesday night, following refusals from several Muslim American community leaders, as reported by US media.

A Florida-based Muslim advocacy group, Emgage, said it had received an invite along with other Muslim American representatives to a meeting with the president, vice president, and senior team members, but “in consultation with our team and community, we made the decision not to attend.”

Emgage said it “stands with our community who have loudly voiced their discontent with the President’s policy on Gaza.” The group believe the Biden administration “can and should leverage its enormous support for Israel and begin to take demonstrable actions” to end the conflict in Gaza.

Robert McCaw, director of the Government Affairs Department at the Council on American-Islamic Rela­tions (CAIR), told Dawn that several American Muslim organisations were hosting their own iftar across the White House to protest the Biden administration’s policies.

He said in an earlier statement that Muslim leaders were boycotting the White House Iftar to protest the administration’s failure to address the demand for Gaza ceasefire and “refusal to stop supplying manufactured weapons to Israel, which are being used in a genocide against our Palestinian brothers and sisters in Gaza”.

CNN reported earlier that the White House dinner’s guest list has shrunk due to several declines, attributed to frustration with the administration’s support of Israel amidst the Gaza humanitarian crisis.

Last year, the White House skipped hosting an Iftar dinner but welcomed nearly 350 guests for an Eid reception. This year, Ram­azan coincides with ongoing conflict in Gaza, with over 30,000 casualties rep­orted in past six months.

White House officials have engaged in multiple meetings with influential Arab American and Muslim leaders across different cities. Recently, senior US officials convened with leaders from the Arab, Muslim and Palestinian American communities in Chicago.

“Anger and concern about the administration’s handling of the conflict is also presenting political problems for Biden, including in battleground states such as Michigan, home to more than 200,000 Muslim American voters,” CNN noted.

Published in Dawn, April 3rd, 2024

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