WASHINGTON - Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has declined a request to host an event to mark Islam's holy month of Ramazan, two US officials said, apparently breaking with a bipartisan tradition in place with few exceptions for nearly 20 years.

Since 1999, Republican and Democratic secretaries of state have nearly always hosted either an iftar dinner to break the day's fast during Ramazan or a reception marking the Eidul Fitr holiday at the end of the month, at the State Department.

Tillerson turned down a request from the State Department's Office of Religion and Global Affairs to host an Eidul Fitr reception as part of Ramazan celebrations, said two US officials who declined to be identified because they were not authorised to speak publicly.

According to an April 6 memo seen by Reuters, the office - which typically initiates such events - recommended that Tillerson hold an Eid reception.  His rejection of the request suggests there are no plans this year for any high-profile Ramazan function at the State Department.

When asked by Reuters to comment on Tillerson declining a request to host an Eid event in July, a State Department spokesperson said: "We are still exploring possible options for observance of Eid, which marks the end of the month of Ramazan. US ambassadors are encouraged to celebrate Ramazan through a variety of activities, which are held annually at missions around the world."

Muslim activists have accused President Donald Trump's administration of having an unfriendly attitude toward Islam, encapsulated by its attempts to ban citizens of several Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States. The administration says that while it strongly opposes Islamist militants, it has no quarrel with Islam. Aides point to Trump's visit this month to Saudi Arabia, where he addressed the leaders of more than 50 Muslim countries, as evidence of that.

Members of Congress, Muslim civil society and community leaders, diplomats from Muslim countries and senior US officials usually attend the State Department Ramazan event, a symbol of the US government's diplomatic efforts with Muslim countries and people.

If Tillerson avoids hosting one this year, that could send a message "that it is not as important to this administration to engage with Muslims," said former US diplomat Farah Pandith, who served in the Bush and Obama administrations and helped plan Ramazan events at the White House and State Department.

Tillerson issued a statement on Friday to mark the start of Ramazan, which he called ‘a month of reverence, generosity, and self-reflection’. "Most importantly, it is a cherished time for family and friends to gather and give charity to those who are less fortunate," he said.

Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright started the tradition 18 years ago of America's top diplomat hosting a public event for Ramazan, a lunar month.

In April, the State Department's Office of Religion and Global Affairs made a request to Tillerson's office that he deliver remarks at an Eid reception this year, and suggested a two-week range of dates in July. The event would serve to "highlight State Department initiatives and the importance of Muslim engagement," the memo said.

It noted that by hosting a reception just after Ramazan, rather than an iftar - an often sumptuous dinner at sunset - a State Department event could be held any time of the day, thus preventing "a very late evening for the Secretary."

Several weeks later, that office and other offices at the State Department were alerted that Tillerson declined the request, the officials said.

Reuters was told of the request being declined but did not see Tillerson's reply. An official with the Office of Religion and Global Affairs did not respond to a request for comment.

Several prominent Muslim-American groups in the Washington area who are normally invited to the Ramazan event told Reuters this week that they had yet to receive an invitation from the State Department, which they said was unusual.

"If they're having one, we haven't been invited," said Rabiah Ahmed, spokeswoman for the Muslim Public Affairs Council in Washington. A representative for her group has been invited to the State Department event in the past, she said.

White House officials did not respond to a request for comment on whether they would continue the tradition this year of hosting a Ramazan-related event at the White House.