Thursday, August 4, 2011

Thomas Jefferson’s Iftar

From the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State:

In 1805, Thomas Jefferson hosted what some consider the first iftar at the White House.

“Ramadan,” said President Obama at a White House iftar dinner in 2010, “is a reminder that Islam has always been a 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.”

The dinner to which the president referred took place on December 9, 1805, and Jefferson’s guest was Sidi Soliman Mellimelli, an envoy from the bey (chieftain) of Tunis who spent six months in Washington. The context of Mellimelli’s visit to the United States was a tense dispute over piracy on American merchant vessels by the Barbary states and the capture of Tunisian vessels trying to run an American blockade of Tripoli.

Mellimelli arrived during Ramadan, and Jefferson, when he invited the envoy to the president’s house, changed the meal time from the usual hour of 3:30 p.m. to “precisely at sunset” in deference to the man’s religious obligation.

Jefferson’s knowledge of Islam likely came from his legal studies of natural law. In 1765, Jefferson purchased a two-volume English translation of the Quran for his personal library, a collection that became, in 1815, the basis of the modern Library of Congress.

(This is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site:

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Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Catholic News Service: Interfaith relations seen as both better, worse, since terror attacks

From Catholic News Service:

Corey Saylor, a Muslim layman who is spokesman for the Council on American Islamic Relations, concurred.

"Most people were introduced to the Islamic faith on Sept. 11 when planes began to fly into buildings," he said. "Media coverage has highlighted a warped version of Islam," he added. "The good guys doing the work aren't getting the coverage."

The American Muslim community, according to Saylor, is "totally indebted to people in the Christian, Jewish and other interfaith dialogues for people who have been very vocal in standing up for American principles. I don't know how long it will take us to repay that debt."