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Muslim Leaders Decline White House Ramadan Invitation As Biden's Israel Policy Draws Anger

Biden's administration has faced criticism from Muslim, Arab, and anti-war activists for backing Israel and its military invasion in Gaza that has killed tens of thousands and caused a starvation crisis in the narrow coastal enclave of about 2.3 million people.

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AP
US President Joe Biden | Photo: AP
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The White House hosted a subdued iftar dinner to celebrate the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, following a series of declines from Muslim leaders who expressed dissatisfaction with President Joe Biden's stance on Israel's war on Gaza.

Several Muslim leaders were expected at Tuesday's gathering with Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, Muslim government officials, and national security leaders, but their names were not shared.

This decision came amid frustration among many Muslim Americans regarding Biden's support for Israel during its military actions in Gaza.

“We’re just in a different world,” Wa’el Alzayat, who leads Emgage, a Muslim advocacy organisation, told news agency Associated Press. “It’s completely surreal. And it’s sad.”

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Alzayat attended last year’s event, but he declined an invitation to break his fast with Biden this year, saying, “It’s inappropriate to do such a celebration while there’s a famine going on in Gaza.”

Biden's administration has faced criticism from Muslim, Arab, and anti-war activists for backing Israel and its military invasion in Gaza that has killed tens of thousands and caused a starvation crisis in the narrow coastal enclave of about 2.3 million people. 

Last year, before Biden said anything at the White House Ramadan celebration, someone shouted "we love you." Hundreds of Muslims were there to mark the end of the holy month that requires fasting from sunrise to sunset.

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The refusal to share a meal or even a room with the president shows how strained Biden's relationship with the Muslim community has become six months after Israel’s war on Gaza. 

No reporters were permitted to capture either the iftar dinner or the meeting with community leaders, a change from previous years. These events were also not included in the president's public schedule.

When President Biden assumed office three years ago, many Muslim leaders were hopeful for a departure from Donald Trump's discriminatory policies, including his vow to "ban Muslims from entering the United States." 

Democrats, however, are now concerned that Biden's decline in Muslim popularity would make it easier for his Republican predecessor to win reelection to the presidency. The outcome of this year's election will likely hinge on a handful of battleground states, including Michigan with its significant Muslim population.

Muslim and anti-war groups organised a demonstration iftar in Lafayette Park near the White House, where they distributed dates and water bottles for breaking the fast at sunset.

At least 32,916 Palestinians have been killed and 75,494 wounded in Israeli attacks on Gaza since October 7. The death toll in Israel from Hamas’s October 7 attack stands at 1,139, with dozens still held captive.

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