Politics
President Barack Obama hosts an Iftar dinner, the meal that breaks the dawn-to-dusk fast for Muslims during the holy month of Ramadan, in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2011. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais) President Barack Obama hosts an Iftar dinner, the meal that breaks the dawn-to-dusk fast for Muslims during the holy month of Ramadan, in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2011. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)  

Obama’s Iftar guest list omits controversial attendees

Neil Munro
White House Correspondent

The White House’s published guest list for this year’s Ramadan Iftar dinner was much shorter than previous years’ roster. It excluded the names of several controversial advocates who have attended the event in the past, including some who The Daily Caller can confirm did attend on Wednesday night.

“It was a squeaky clean list,” said Durriya Badani, director of the U.S.-Islamic World Forum, an annual event organized by the Brookings Institution’s Saban Center and the Qatari government. The guests on the published list are “not controversial at all,” said Badani, whose name is on the list the White House provided to reporters.

“It was a lot more low-key … It was a more intimate event this year,” said Haris Tarin, the Washington director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, whose invitation was kept off the published list. “I have no idea why they didn’t publish [MPAC’s invite] … I’m going to learn about that a little bit more,” he told The Daily Caller.

Mohamed Magid also attended but did not appear on the White House’s publish list. Magid is imam of the All Dulles Area Muslim Society mosque in Northern Virginia and the current president of the Islamic Society of North America. Along with MPAC, Magid’s two organizations have drawn criticism from a loose network of online critics who claim they are sympathetic to Islamist groups.

Whether intentional or not, the shorter list limited the risk of a political embarrassment for the White House because it downplayed the attendance of several ideological Islamist groups, including MPAC, said Zuhdi Jasser, president of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, a pro-Western Muslim group. But the White House also failed to invite any of the 25 pro-liberty American Muslim groups and individuals in Jasser’s American Islamic Leadership Coalition, he said.

Iftar is the evening meal when Muslims break their fast during the month of Ramadan.

At last year’s event, President Obama publicly endorsed the planned construction of a mosque at the Ground Zero site in New York City. But Obama avoided controversial topics in his short speech Wednesday night. (RELATED: Obama gives Small Business Admin. the coal shoulder)

The president lauded American Muslims who reacted to the 9/11 attack. “How do we honor these patriots, those who died and those who served? … The answer is the same as it was ten Septembers ago. We must be the America they lived for, … An America that doesn’t simply tolerate people of different backgrounds and beliefs, but an America where we are enriched by our diversity.”

The public guest list did include ambassadors from Muslim-majority democratic countries, such as Iraq and Bangladesh, as well as the ambassador of Israel, roughly 20 percent of whose population is Muslim. Also included were numerous ambassadors from Islamic countries that do not accept democracy or welcome non-Islamic religions. These included Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and both Yemen and Bahrain, whose governments have violently suppressed public demonstrations this year.

Obama, Jasser complained, “has not been clear on what America stands for, on the freedom agenda in the Middle East, [so] he ends up at an Iftar dinner that panders to ambassadors” who oppose American’s vision of freedom, Jasser said.

The list also excluded a few controversial attendees, such as Tarin from MPAC and Mohamed Magid, who is the imam of the All Dulles Area Muslim Society mosque in Northern Virginia and the current president of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA).

Critics of Tarin’s and Magid’s organizations  — including the Investigative Project on Terrorism — use the Internet to publish court records, translate Arab-language media reports, and record information released by Muslim advocacy groups in the United States and overseas. For example, court records now available online show that the federal government designated ISNA an unindicted co-conspirator during the 2008 trial of Texas Muslims who smuggled money to the Hamas terror group.