As Tuesday, May 15 marked the beginning of Ramadan, the holy month during observant Muslims typically fast from sun-up to sun-down and participate in a variety of religious practices, including an emphasis on charity and selflessness, President Donald Trump put out a statement to commemorate the religious holiday. But despite his message of celebration and goodwill, Trump's Ramadan message is getting shade on Twitter. The statement comes during a week rife with controversy for the president, especially as it relates to religion, after his administration moved the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, inciting protests that resulted in dozens of Palestinians being killed by Israeli forces.
"With the rising of tonight's moon, I send my greetings and best wishes to all Muslims observing Ramadan in the United States and around the world," wrote Trump in a White House statement released Tuesday. He continued,
Ramadan reminds us of the richness Muslims add to the religious tapestry of American life. In the United States, we are all blessed to live under a Constitution that fosters religious liberty and respects religious practice. Our Constitution ensures Muslims can observe Ramadan in accordance with the dictates of conscience and unimpeded by government. By doing so, the Constitution also furnishes varied opportunities for all Americans to deepen their understanding of the human soul.
As of writing, Trump has not tweeted about Ramadan, but he has endured his fair share of backlash on social media for his remarks. It came at a less-than-ideal moment to say the least. On Monday, the Trump administration formally opened the new U.S. embassy in Israel in Jerusalem, having made the decision to move it from its previous location in Tel Aviv, the capital city.
The situation in Israel on Monday was a tale of two cities: Bloodshed and tear gas flew on the border, while, some 50 miles away, Trump's daughter Ivanka and her husband Jared welcome the new facility with celebration.
In his remarks on the matter, Trump called Jerusalem the "true capital" of the country, a wildly controversial statement. The move incited bloody clashes between Palestinian protestors and Israeli forces on the Gaza border. As a result of the violence, some 60 demonstrators were killed and another 2,700 wounded, most of them Palestinians. The optics on this weren't great, as several users point out on Twitter.
First, some people questioned that Trump himself would even make a statement like this.
Others fixated their criticism on the president's decision to move the embassy and acknowledge Jerusalem, which has been receiving pushback for a number of reasons.
"Trump's real Ramadan message: 'To celebrate, we helped incite a slaughter of Palestinians, blessed by an evangelist who thinks you're going to hell. Don't come to the U.S., either as students or refugees. Take solace in the tender mercies of the despots we've armed to the teeth,'" wrote former U.S. foreign service member James Gibney on Twitter.
Others point out that Trump's pick to lead the opening prayer at the facility's opening Monday in Jerusalem was none other than Pastor Robert Jeffress, a highly controversial figure who has made numerous derogatory statements about Islam.
It's also been only one week since Trump formally announced he'd pull the U.S. out of the Iran nuclear deal, a point which only added fuel to his critics on Twitter over the timing of his Ramadan message.
Last year, Trump's Ramadan statement got backlash for its reference to violences. As Talking Points Memo notes, this year's Ramadan message from Trump didn't include references to terrorism, so at least that's a plus. For comparison, in last year's statement on Ramadan by the president, Trump said,
This year, the holiday begins as the world mourns the innocent victims of barbaric terrorist attacks in the United Kingdom and Egypt, acts of depravity that are directly contrary to the spirit of Ramadan. Such acts only steel our resolve to defeat the terrorists and their perverted ideology. ... I reiterate my message delivered in Riyadh: America will always stand with our partners against terrorism and the ideology that fuels it. During this month of Ramadan, let us be resolved to spare no measure so that we may ensure that future generations will be free of this scourge and able to worship and commune in peace.
Regardless of everything else going on, Trump ended his 2018 statement on a positive note, saying, "As so many people unite to celebrate Ramadan, Melania and I join in the hope for a blessed month. Ramadan Mubarak."