Trump's Ramadan Statement Is Mostly About Terrorism

May 26th 2017

Mike Rothschild

As with most major religious holidays, the White House issues a statement to mark the beginning of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, and President Donald Trump continued that tradition on May 26.

However, Trump broke from decades of tradition in his statement by filling it with references to terrorism, in particular the ISIS-linked bombing of a concert in Manchester, England.



The four-paragraph statement starts off promisingly, mentioning the "charity and meditation that strengthen our communities." But it quickly descends into stereotypes and recrimination, referencing "violence," "barbaric terrorist attacks," "acts of depravity," and "the terrorists and their perverted ideology." 

The rest of the statement is mostly about Trump, including his meeting in Saudi Arabia with leaders in the Muslim world. The president gushes about how these leaders "gathered to deliver together an emphatic message of partnership for the sake of peace, security, and prosperity for our countries and for the world." Then he gets in one more mention of "terrorism" before signing off. 

Trump's Ramadan statement is a major departure from those of previous presidents, which made little mention, if any, of terrorism, radicalism, jihad, or violence.

The most notable example is President George W. Bush's statement for Ramadan in November 2001, just two months after the September 11th attacks.



The message makes no reference to the attacks, al-Qaeda, or Osama bin Laden. "The Islam that we know is a faith devoted to the worship of one God," the statement declared. "It teaches the value and importance of charity, mercy, and peace."

Bush's Ramadan statements for the rest of his presidency took a similar tone. His 2002 statement is the only one to mention terrorism, and it's done to single out the "many Muslim Nations that are vital partners in the global coalition to fight" it. His 2003 message, issued less than a year into the Iraq War, speaks of "advanc[ing] freedom and mutual understanding" to create a "brighter future of hope and opportunity."

President Barack Obama's statements for Ramadan echo the same tone of inclusion and reconciliation.



His first Ramadan message as president, issued in June 2009, was a five minute video that The Washington Post described at the time as "a tutorial on the meaning of Ramadan for non-Muslim viewers tuning in to watch, and [an] outline of the basics of his views on issues of importance to the Muslim world."

He also spoke of ending the war in Iraq, eradicating polio in majority-Muslim nations, and seeking common ground.

Ironically, Obama's last message, delivered in June 2016, was seen by the media as a swipe at Trump, making reference to "the voices that seek to divide us." 

"I stand committed to safeguarding the civil rights of all Americans no matter their religion or appearance," Obama wrote. "I stand in celebration of our common humanity and dedication to peace and justice for all.”

Trump's Ramadan message, with its copious mention of terrorism and barbarity, was called "offensive and pretty much terrible" by one Muslim scholar interviewed by the Post. Another said it made Bush look like "a moderate, enlightened sage."