In 2009, President Obama stood before the camera to deliver his Ramadan message, as “part of an on-going dialogue with Muslim communities that began on inauguration day.” The Muslim holy day has generally received quieter acknowledgment since, but the President has hosted an iftar dinner each year since taking office, even going so far as to credit Thomas Jefferson with having hosted the first one. But the executive branch’s official sensitivity to Islam’s calendar is a more recent affair: Bill Clinton hosted iftar dinners and George W. Bush also hosted dinners celebrating Ramadan each year he was in office–a reminder that in some important ways, whatever the political interpretations point up, the office of the POTUS has not been closed under either post-9/11 administration to the rights of people to practice the faith they choose.
Obama’s official remarks this year are (so far) briefer than in years past. But they sound the same hopeful, grateful notes that his predecessor sounded, notes that anyone might be glad to hear: “This month also reminds us that freedom, dignity and opportunity are the undeniable rights of all mankind. We reflect on these universal values at a time when many citizens across the Middle East and North Africa continue to strive for these basic rights and as millions of refugees mark Ramadan far from their homes,” reads Obama’s statement. “In the United States, Ramadan is a reminder that millions of Muslim Americans enrich our nation each day — serving in our government, leading scientific breakthroughs, generating jobs and caring for our neighbors in need. I have been honored to host an iftar dinner at the White House each of the past four years, and this year I look forward to welcoming Muslim Americans who are contributing to our country as entrepreneurs, activists and artists.”
-Ramadan began on July 8, 2013