By

Allen Cone and Danielle Hayne

President Donald Trump speaks to guests, including prominent Muslims, in the White House during the iftar dinner Monday night. Photo by Chris Kleponis/UPI | License Photo
May 13 (UPI) — President Donald Trump on Monday night described Ramadan as a “very special time for Muslims around the world” as he hosted an iftar dinner at the White House.

Prominent members of the Muslim community, diplomats and members of Congress attended the dinner, which began at 8:30 p.m. EDT, shortly after sunset, in the State Dining Room.

The president, who spoke for five minutes, said he was “delighted” to share the occasion with “so many esteemed dignitaries and friends — I have so many friends in this room — and cherished partners from around the world.”

Last year, Trump hosted his first iftar dinner as president.

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“Ramadan is a time of charity, of giving, and service to our fellow citizens,” Trump said. “Ramadan is a very special time. It’s a time to draw closer as families, neighbors, and communities. And Ramadan is a time when people join forces in pursuit of hope, tolerance and peace.”

During Ramadan, Muslims fast from dawn to sunset and they break the fast with a meal called an iftar. Eid al-Fitr, which signifies the end of Ramadan, is expected to begin June 3. It is based on the observation of new moon by local religious authorities.

Trump also mentioned tragedies at places of worship worldwide.

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“This evening, our thoughts are also with the religious believers who have endured many trials and hardships in recent weeks,” the president said. “It’s been a very rough period of time. Our hearts are filled with the grief for Muslims who were killed in their mosques in New Zealand, as well as the Christians, Jews, and other children of God who were slain in Sri Lanka, California and Pittsburgh.”

He added: “In their blessed memory, 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.”

The United States is “a place founded on the belief that citizens of all faiths can live together in safety, and live together in freedom,” the president said.

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During the end of his remarks, he wished every Muslim in America and around the globe Ramadan Kareem.

“We’re going to have a good meal. And if it’s not good, blame me, OK?,” he said as the dinner guests laughed.

On hand was Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, who returned from China for trade tariffs negotiations.

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“We’ll let you know in about three or four weeks whether of not it was successful,” Trump said. “But I have a feeling it’s going to be very successful.”

China announced Monday it will raise tariffs on $60 billion in U.S. goods in response to the Trump administration raising tariffs Friday on $200 billion in Chinese products.

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