The establishment media became upset this weekend after President Donald Trump canceled the “White House Muslim Iftar Dinner tradition started by Thomas Jefferson.” But the media is wrong in every respect. Thomas Jefferson never held any Iftar dinner and only three out of 45 presidents ever hosted one, so there is no such “tradition” to cancel.
Amy B. Wang of the Washington Post led the pack with this nonsense that Thomas Jefferson held the “first Iftar dinner” with a June 24 piece entitled, “Trump just ended a long tradition of celebrating Ramadan at the White House.”
The often-used claim that Thomas Jefferson held the first Iftar dinner at the White House was trotted out by the Post’s Wang. She recounted the time when the diplomatic envoy from the Bey of Tunis, Sidi Soliman Melli Melli, visited Washington during Ramadan in 1805.
Jefferson invited the envoy to the White House for dinner at 3:30 PM—the time most Washingtonians had dinner in those days. But after he sent the invitation he was told that Melli Melli could not partake of a meal until after sunset because of Ramadan. Thomas Jefferson was faced with two choices: cancel the dinner entirely or simply have the meal later in the evening at a time when his guest could attend. As a good host and a decent person, Jefferson chose the latter.
In fact, all Jefferson did was change the time of his meal. He had no intention of honoring Islam. Jefferson simply was not honoring the religion of “the Musselmen”—as he termed Muslims at the time—when he changed the time of the meal. Also, there is no evidence that Jefferson asked Melli Melli what sort of food a “Musselman” would eat, so no special food was prepared to suit a Muslim’s religious needs. Jefferson neither inquired about religious accommodations nor was any made. All he did was move the time of the meal as a courtesy.
Further, Jefferson sent no letters containing proclamations about the meal being an Iftar dinner nor mentioning Islam, he never mentioned such honors in his private papers, and there is no record that he spoke to anyone about his intentions to honor the Muslim practice of an Iftar dinner.
To the Post’s Wang, that Jefferson had a dinner at all was somehow proof positive that he invented a “tradition” of some sort. As “proof” that it was an Iftar dinner, Wang quoted the words of liberal historian John Ragosta who gave the scintillating argument, “Yeah, it sounds to me like an Iftar dinner.”