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No, Thomas Jefferson didn’t host the primary Ramadan iftar dinner on the White Home

“America’s First Ramadan Break-Fast Was Hosted by Thomas Jefferson,” says Atlas Oscura, a web site that claims “our mission is to inspire wonder and curiosity about the incredible world we all share.” The article yesterday by Natasha Frost makes an attempt to counsel that the “tradition” of the Iftar Dinner goes all the best way again to Thomas Jefferson who, as is well-known, was requested by a visiting Muslim envoy of the Bey of Tunis, one Sidi Soliman Mellimelli, to postpone the dinner to which Jefferson had invited him, together with others, till after sunset, which Jefferson, as a matter of courtesy, did.

Frost states:

Observing this holy month and its day by day fasts in such a international surroundings will need to have been a problem. Newspaper commentators on the time considered him contemptuously, variously “depicting him as a sex-crazed barbarian, or associating Islam with licentiousness,” writes Jason Zeledon. However in Thomas Jefferson, he had an sudden ally. Regardless of going through criticism for his hospitality from Federalists in Connecticut and Vermont, Jefferson sorted his Muslim customer graciously, going as far as to rearrange a cocktail party round Mellimelli’s quick. In doing so, America’s third president turned the nation’s first ever host of an iftar meal.

What really occurred is evident for these with out an insensate must make Islam, as Barack Obama repeatedly claimed it was, “always part of America’s story.” Jefferson was not placing on an Iftar dinner. Slightly historical past will assist: Mellimelli got here to Washington because the envoy of the Bey of Tunis. The Individuals had blockaded the port of Tunis with a purpose to drive the Bey to halt his assaults on American transport. Mellimelli was despatched to make an settlement that may finish the blockade. Invited by Jefferson to a dinner on the White Home set for three:30 (dinners have been earlier in these pre-Edison days of our existence), he requested that or not it’s held after sunset, in accordance together with his Muslim apply, and Jefferson, a courteous man, obliged him. There isn’t a trace that the dinner had modified in any means; nobody then referred to as it, or considered it, as an “Iftar dinner.” Mellimelli himself didn’t describe it as an “Iftar dinner.” There isn’t a file of it being something aside from the very same dinner, the identical menu, with wine (no removing of alcohol, as would have been mandatory had it been an actual Iftar dinner), the one change being that of the three-hour delay till sundown.

Frost continues:

It was, by no stretch, a conventional iftar, nor what Mellimelli would have been used to, with out candy dates to start out the meal or the Tunisian dishes he was acquainted with. However this gesture of hospitality will need to have appeared an outstretched hand at what was maybe a really lonely time—a recognition that Jefferson and his friends revered and valued Mellimelli’s non secular apply, and would do no matter they may to accommodate him, and it.

But nothing Jefferson stated or did on the time, or in his later writings, signifies that he considered that delayed dinner as an “Iftar dinner”; nor did he suppose he was in any means honoring or accommodating the apply of Islam.

In actual fact, Jefferson had a really dim view of Islam, which got here out of his expertise in coping with the Barbary Pirates, that’s, the North African Muslims (in Morocco, Algiers, Tunis, and Tripoli), who attacked Christian transport and seized ships and Christian sailors after which demanded ransom. The sums weren’t trivial; the American Republic discovered itself spending 20% of its nationwide funds on such funds. These continued till Jefferson turned President, stopped the apply of paying such tribute, and as an alternative made warfare on the Barbary Pirates. And that labored.

In 1786, years earlier than he turned president, Jefferson, together with John Adams, met with the Tripolitanian envoy Sidi Haji Abdrahaman in London. Maybe by then Jefferson had learn the Qur’an he had bought in 1765 out of curiosity (nobody is aware of how a lot of that Qur’an Jefferson might have learn, or when, although some Muslim apologists have baselessly claimed he will need to have purchased his Qur’an out of sympathetic curiosity in Islam). If he did learn it, it could have helped him to grasp the motivations of the North African Muslims. Actually by the point he turned President in 1801, he was decided to not negotiate with the Barbary Pirates, however to implacably oppose with drive these Muslims whom, he knew from his encounter with Abdrahaman in London, have been completely hostile to all non-Muslims.

In London, Jefferson and Adams had queried the Tripolitanian ambassador “concerning the ground of the pretensions to make war upon nations who had done them no injury,” for the Individuals had carried out nothing to deserve being attacked, and the ambassador replied, as Jefferson reported:

“It was written in their Koran, that all nations which had not acknowledged the Prophet were sinners, whom it was the right and duty of the faithful to plunder and enslave; and that every mussulman who was slain in this warfare was sure to go to paradise.”

And later, Jefferson reported to Secretary of State John Jay and to Congress at larger size, with a virtually equivalent quote from the ambassador:

“The ambassador answered us that [the right] was founded on the Laws of the Prophet, that it was written in their Koran, that all nations who should not have answered their authority were sinners, that it was their right and duty to make war upon them wherever they could be found, and to make slaves of all they could take as prisoners, and that every Mussulman who should be slain in battle was sure to go to Paradise.”

These experiences don’t sound as in the event that they got here from somebody who thought properly of Islam. The extra dealings Jefferson had with the representatives of the Barbary states, and the extra he discovered from them immediately of the tenets of the religion, the extra he started to grasp the aggressive nature of Islam, the centrality of Jihad, the inculcation of everlasting hostility towards non-Muslims, and the heavenly reward for Jihadis slain in battle.

The Iftar dinner “tradition” begins not with Jefferson in 1805, and that three-hour delay in a meal that was in any other case unchanged, however with our latter-day interfaith outreach presidents — Clinton, Bush, Obama — every of whom, in his personal means, has managed to disregard or misread the texts and teachings of Islam.

That “tradition” of Iftar dinners within the White Home is lower than 20 years outdated, as in contrast with the opposite “tradition,” ten occasions as lengthy, that’s, the 200 years of Iftar-less presidencies. That short-lived “tradition” has been ended, for now, by an administration that continues to exhibit a greater sense of what Islam, international and home, is all about, than its predecessors. The interfaith outreach farce that the Iftar Dinner on the White home embodies, honoring Islam — whereas, all around the world, day by day brings recent information of Muslim atrocities towards non-Muslims, greater than 33,000 such assaults since 9/11/2001 alone, to not point out assaults as properly towards different Muslims deemed both of the unsuitable sect, or inadequate within the fervor of their religion — has now come to an finish, if just for 4 years. That’s actually what Jefferson (and John Adams, and that the majority profound presidential pupil of Islam, John Quincy Adams), if not Atlas Oscura, would have wished.

And since John Quincy Adams has been talked about, why doesn’t Atlas Oscura take it upon itself to share with its readers what that the majority scholarly of our presidents wrote about Islam? It doesn’t date. And it’d show most instructive.

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