US President Donald Trump decries religious violence at White House iftar
The US president said he wants people around the world to 'live by the faith that flows from their heart'
US President Donald Trump used the annual White House iftar to decry sectarian violence and celebrate Ramadan as a month in "pursuit of hope, tolerance and peace".
In an iftar dinner for ambassadors and members of the diplomatic corps, as well as senior Trump Administration officials, Mr Trump said Ramadan was a time to strengthen community and family bonds.
The White House iftar has been held regularly every year since the Clinton administration as a form of outreach to the Muslim world.
Ramadan around the world
Mr Trump mentioned terror attacks that had affected Muslims, Jews and Christians around the world.,
"Our hearts are filled with grief for the Muslims who were killed in their mosques in New Zealand, as well as Christians, Jews and other children of God, who were slain in Sri Lanka, California and Pittsburgh," the president said.
Trump Administration officials, Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of Defence Patrick Shanahan and US Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin were joined by religious leaders and ambassadors from around the world.
Mr Trump welcomed the guests, thanking by name those members of his administration in attendance.
"Ramadan is a time of charity and giving and of service to our fellow citizens … it is a time to draw closer as families, neighbours and communities … and Ramadan is a time when people join forces in pursuit of hope, tolerance and peace," he said.
Mr Trump also said he was determined to defeat terrorism and fight for freedom of religion.
"We resolve to defeat the evils of terrorism and religious persecution so that all people can worship without fear, pray without danger and live by the faith that flows from their heart," he said.
"We thank God that America is a place founded on the belief that citizens of all faiths can live together in safety and live together in freedom."
The US president has been dogged by claims of discrimination against Muslims during his time in office. As one of his first acts as president, Mr Trump issued a travel ban affecting seven Muslim-majority countries. The ban was fought in the courts on grounds of religious discrimination but was upheld by the Supreme Court when it was amended to include Venezuela and North Korea.
Additionally, Mr Trump's support of Israel — recognising their sovereignty over the occupied Golan Heights and Jerusalem as its capital, among other acts — has sparked claims of anti-Muslim or anti-Palestinian sentiment.
But the president struck a harmonious tone in his statement, wishing those celebrating the holy month a happy Ramadan, before commencing the meal:
"I would like to wish every Muslim in America and around the globe, Ramadan Kareem."
Updated: May 14, 2019 03:55 PM