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UK PM’s absence marks significant turnout dip at Downing Street’s Eid celebration

LONDON: UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak was notably absent from an annual Eid party held at Downing Street on Monday, which saw a turnout significantly smaller than usual, the BBC reported.

Foreign Secretary David Cameron had earlier publicly encouraged people to attend after some threatened to boycott the celebration in protest at the government’s support for Israel.

The gathering, reportedly about half its typical size with roughly 50 attendees, saw the absence of major Muslim charities and influential business figures.

Most notably absent were several high-profile guests, including Baroness Warsi, Britain’s first female Muslim Cabinet minister, who is known for her vocal criticism of the situation in Gaza.

Of those present, many displayed symbols of solidarity with Palestine, such as small badges featuring the Palestinian flag or wristbands featuring the keffiyeh pattern.

Attendees expressed mixed feelings about their decision to participate, with some deliberating over ethical considerations and consulting with family before attending.

One woman told the BBC that she did not want to miss the opportunity of being invited to Downing Street for the first time, but that Israel’s war in Gaza “has not been forgotten.”

Another stated that he had attended the event for years and “thought about it; thought what it was about. And what I thought was that Downing Street is marking Eid, and it is a celebration I believe in.”

He added to the BBC: “So I came. I understand why so many boycotted, but for me the right thing was to come.”

Those who attended were “surprised” that Sunak did not attend. The event is held annually, and the prime minister has always hosted it.

Sunak said on Sunday that he was “looking forward” to meeting those invited, who were selected from prominent Muslims in charity, business and politics.

Guests were this year received by Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden.

The prime minister’s office told the BBC that Sunak “had business in parliament” and could not host nor attend the party.

Guests leaving the event reported seeing “no MPs.”

One told the BBC: “I saw parliamentary candidates, but no MPs. They may have been there but I didn’t see them.”

The absences were believed to be the first significant boycott of a Downing Street event.

American Muslims boycotted an annual iftar at the White House earlier this month, citing the support of the US for Israel.

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