For nearly two decades, every sitting Secretary of State has hosted a reception or dinner in celebration of Ramadan, Islam's holy month.
Reuters reported on Friday:
Since 1999, Republican and Democratic secretaries of state have nearly always hosted either an iftar dinner to break the day's fast during Ramadan or a reception marking the Eid al-Fitr holiday at the end of the month, at the State Department.
Tillerson turned down a request from the State Department's Office of Religion and Global Affairs to host an Eid al-Fitr reception as part of Ramadan celebrations, said two U.S. officials who declined to be identified because they were not authorized to speak publicly.
His rejection of the request suggests there are no plans this year for any high-profile Ramadan function at the State Department. The month of fasting and prayer for Muslims gets under way in many countries on Saturday.
Some attributed the move to an anti-Muslim perception of the White House — largely fueled by statements made during the campaign and the executive orders restricting immigration from several primarily Muslim countries:
However, the State Department also told Reuters through a spokesman that a celebration had not been entirely ruled out:
“We are still exploring possible options for observance of Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of the month of Ramadan. U.S. ambassadors are encouraged to celebrate Ramadan through a variety of activities, which are held annually at missions around the world.”
The State Department also released an official statement from Tillerson marking the start of Ramadan:
The full statement reads:
On behalf of the United States Department of State, Renda and I sincerely wish Muslims around the world a peaceful and blessed Ramadan.
Ramadan is 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.
I wish all those celebrating a very happy Ramadan Kareem
CNN noted that the decision not to host a reception might be related to Tillerson's efforts to streamline the State Department and cut the budget.