Every year he’s been in office, President Obama has hosted an “iftar dinner” to honor Islam in the White House. The President has also each time led his speech with the outlandish nonsense that Thomas Jefferson held the “first iftar dinner” in the White House. And every time it’s been utter hogwash. This year’s speech was no different in that respect.
For the 2012 iftar dinner celebration. Obama said the following:
As I’ve noted before, Thomas Jefferson once held a sunset dinner here with an envoy from Tunisia — perhaps the first Iftar at the White House, more than 200 years ago. And some of you, as you arrived tonight, may have seen our special display, courtesy of our friends at the Library of Congress — the Koran that belonged to Thomas Jefferson. And that’s a reminder, along with the generations of patriotic Muslims in America, that Islam — like so many faiths — is part of our national story.
This year’s reference to Jefferson’s so-called iftar dinner is at least a step closer to reality in that Obama said it was “perhaps the first iftar at the White House.” In the past, he was less equivocal. In 2010, for instance, Obama said it was the first iftar dinner.
Tonight, we are reminded that Ramadan is a celebration of a faith known for great diversity. And Ramadan is a reminder that Islam has always been part of America. The first Muslim ambassador to the United States, from Tunisia, was hosted by President Jefferson, who arranged a sunset dinner for his guest because it was Ramadan—making it the first known iftar at the White House, more than 200 years ago.
But the fact is Jefferson’s dinner was not a “was” nor was it a “perhaps.” It was a wasn’t. President Thomas Jefferson did not hold any iftar dinner, nor did he intend to honor Islam in that way. To claim that the very first president to authorize war against “the Musselmen” — who we today call Muslims — would have hosted a dinner to honor Islam is an absurdity of the first order.
Plain and simple, that “iftar dinner” that Jefferson hosted was in no way meant as an iftar dinner. Now, it is a fact that Jefferson invited Mr. Sidi Soliman Melli Melli, the diplomatic envoy that the Bey of Tunis, to the White House for dinner. But Jefferson was told that the envoy was fasting and observing his religious tenets at the time and could not attend at the appointed time.
You see, Jefferson usually ate dinner at 3:30 PM, as did most Washingtonians at the time (remember, without electric lights the evening came a lot sooner than it does today). However, Jefferson was told that the envoy couldn’t attend a dinner until after sunset. So, being a good host, Jefferson merely pushed the dinner back and invited the envoy to dinner at a time after his religious observation ended.
That is all he did. Jefferson had no intention at all of hosting any iftar dinner. But here is President Obama continuing this phony claim that Jefferson “perhaps” hosted an iftar diner. He did not. Thomas Jefferson certainly hosted a dinner, but a dinner was all he intended. He never intended to impose any religious meaning on the event.
It is also interesting to note that the Koran Obama noted that Jefferson had in his vast collection of books was a translation by an Englishman named George Sale. Sale’s 1734 edition of the Koran was one of its earliest translations into English. But as far as observant Muslims are concerned, this book does not qualify as a Koran because it was not written by an Arab and is not an authorized translation!
President Obama has been misleading Americans and America’s Muslims, now, for four years. Until modern times, there have been no iftar dinners at the White House. Further, there is no long tradition of Muslims having an impact in America. The only real impact that Islam has had on America occurred on September 11, 2001. It is an impact that reverberates today.
Warner Todd Huston’s thoughtful commentary, sometimes irreverent often historically based, is featured on many websites such as gatewaypundit.com, renewamerica.us, rightwingnews.com, chicagonow.com, among many, many others. He has also written for several history magazines, has appeared on numerous TV and radio shows and appears in the new book “Americans on Politics, Policy and Pop Culture,” which can be purchased on amazon.com. He is also the owner and operator of Publius’ Forum.
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