By Jim O’Neill
The Protestants alone are able to attack the Koran with success; and for them, I trust, Providence has reserved the glory of its overthrow.
George Sales (1697-1736) From the introduction to “Jefferson’s Koran”
Islam has been woven into the fabric of our country since its founding.
We’re going to impeach the motherf–ker.
Muslim Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib referring to President Trump
Obama is on record as stating that “Islam has been woven into the fabric of our country since its founding.” Is that true? Well yes, sort of.
If by “woven into the fabric of our country” you mean “following the Revolutionary War, Muslims were America’s first international enemies,” then yes, it’s true. Muslim pirates helped to kick start the US Navy into existence. Anchors aweigh Islam!
There was a definite downside to the United States gaining its freedom from Great Britain. Among the thornier problems our fledgling country faced was the fact that America lost the mantle of protection offered by Great Britain’s large fleet of naval ships. This meant that it was open season on American merchant ships in the Atlantic, and especially the Mediterranean – and Muslim pirates in the area were quick to jump on the opportunity.
For about 600 years, from the thirteenth to the seventeenth centuries, the pirates or corsairs of Barbary preyed on European commerce, taking thousands [some say over a million] of prisoners, and selling them as slaves in the mines or the galleys. European women were especially prized for their light complexions, fetching premium prices in the harems. Though prisoners could, in theory, be ransomed, the going rates for redemption were invariably high. The lives of most of the slaves, by contrast, were brutal, cruel and mercifully short.
…In a single six-month period between 1783 and 1784, the Barbary states sacked three American vessels. The crewmen were paraded down the streets of Fez and Algiers, pelted with rotten vegetables and offal, and thrown before the emperor or the pasha who reportedly told them, “I’ll make you eat stones, Christian dogs,” and then sold them to the highest bidders.
Michael B. Oren “The Middle East and the Making of the United States, 1776 to 1815”
For those wishing to delve deeper into the topic I recommend Robert C. Davis’s book “Christian Slaves, Muslim Masters: White Slavery in the Mediterranean, the Barbary Coast, and Italy, 1500-1800”
Interwoven into our national fabric indeed. The great European fleets of France and Britain could shrug off the pesky corsairs, or Barbary pirates, as the Muslims were called. Michael Oren notes that for the British and French “the pirates were little more than a nuisance, scarcely worth a broadside, much less a war.”
Such was not the case for the United States, whose merchant ships were essentially defenseless once they left America’s ports. In 1794 George Washington authorized the building of six frigates “adequate for the protection of the commerce of the United States against Algerian corsairs.”
The U.S. Navy thus was born, a contentious but honorable birth, intended not to rule the waves but to free them.
Michael B. Oren “Power, Faith, and Fantasy”
Well, sort of. The birth of the US Navy had rather bumpy beginnings. The US Navy celebrates October 13, 1775 as its official birthday, but that navy, the Continental Navy, active during the Revolutionary War, was nowhere to be seen soon after the war ended. Then Washington restarted it with his six frigates, and Jefferson jumped in and…well, as I say, bumpy beginnings.
The bottom line is, we have the Muslims to thank for the birth (rebirth if you prefer) of the US Navy. Which brings us to the topic of Jefferson’s Koran (Quran).
Recently, Rashida Tlaib, one of the first two Muslim women elected to Congress, chose to be sworn in on a copy of the Quran that once belonged to Thomas Jefferson.
“It’s important to me because a lot of Americans have this kind of feeling that Islam is somehow foreign to American history,” she told the Detroit Free Press. “Muslims were there at the beginning.”
“Muslims were there at the beginning.” Yes indeed, they sure were, as we have seen. It is worth noting that America won its first overseas land battle against a foreign enemy by defeating Muslim troops at the “Battle of Derne” (Derna) in present day Libya during the “1st Barbary War” in 1805. The leader of the US Marine detachment involved in the battle was presented with a ceremonial Mameluke sword after the battle – replicas of this sword are worn by Marine Corps officers to this day.
Longtime Congress watchers will recall Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), America’s first Muslim member of the body, also used Jefferson’s Koran for his 2007 swearing-in. “It demonstrates that from the very beginning of our country, we had people who were visionary, who were religiously tolerant, who believed that knowledge and wisdom could be gleaned from any number of sources, including the Koran,” Ellison told the Associated Press at the time.
Yair Rosenberg “The complicated history of Thomas Jefferson’s Koran”
The copy of the Koran that Jefferson owned was translated by George Sales in 1734. You will recall from the quote of Sales that began this article that he believed that “Providence has reserved the glory of [Islam’s] overthrow” to the Protestants. Hardly a Kumbaya sentiment of multicultural solidarity. So why would these Congressional Muslims use a Quran that is admittedly designed to “overthrow” Islam? In a word – ignorance.
In 1786 Thomas Jefferson, along with John Adams, visited a Muslim ambassador in London, England. In a letter to then Secretary of Foreign Affairs, John Jay, Jefferson wrote:
We took the liberty to make some inquiries concerning the Grounds of their pretentions to make war upon Nations who had done them no Injury, and observed that we considered all mankind as our friends who had done us no wrong, nor had given us any provocation.
It should be noted that the United States had been paying extortion money to the Muslim pirates, who kept upping the ante (by the year 1800 these extortion payments amounted to 20% of the American government’s expenditures).
The Ambassador answered us that it was founded on the Laws of their Prophet, that it was written in their Koran, that all nations who should not have acknowledged 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 Musselman who should be slain in battle was sure to go to Paradise.
Thomas Jefferson “American Commissioners to John Jay, March 28, 1786”
As the late Christopher Hitchens wrote concerning the Muslim ambassador’s reply: “Medieval as it is, this has a modern ring to it.” Indeed, it does, more’s the pity.
I do not know how John Adams (2nd president of the United States) felt about Islam, but I have no doubt how one of his sons, John Quincy Adams (6th president of the United States), felt. John Quincy Adams, fervently anti-slavery, is perhaps best remembered these days for his passionate and cogent defense of a group of Africans who commandeered a Spanish slave ship, as depicted in the movie “Amistad.” In an essay he wrote on the long series of Russo-Turkish wars (17th century to 20th century) he left no doubt about his feelings about Islam:
Adopting from the new Revelation of Jesus, the faith and hope of immortal life, and of future retribution, he [Mohammed] humbled it to the dust by adapting all the rewards and sanctions of his religion to the gratification of the sexual passion. He poisoned the sources of human felicity at the fountain, by degrading the condition of the female sex, and the allowance of polygamy; and he declared undistinguishing and exterminating war, as a part of his religion, against all the rest of mankind. THE ESSENCE OF HIS DOCTRINE WAS VIOLENCE AND LUST — TO EXALT THE BRUTAL OVER THE SPIRITUAL PART OF HUMAN NATURE…. Between these two religions [Christianity and Islam], thus contrasted in their characters, a war of twelve hundred years has already raged. The war is yet flagrant…. While the merciless and dissolute dogmas of the false prophet shall furnish motives to human action, there can never be peace upon earth, and good will towards men. [The words in caps are as originally printed].
John Quincy was not one to beat around the bush…but back to Jefferson. I do not believe that he bought a copy of the Quran in order to glean “knowledge and wisdom,” but rather to better understand America’s enemies.
Shortly after being sworn in as president (3rd president of the United States) Jefferson stopped all extortion payments to the Muslim pirates and sent US Navy warships to confront them in the Mediterranean. Soon afterwards the United States (and Sweden) were fighting Muslims in the “1st Barbary War” (1801-1805).
In truth, the “1st Barbary War” was neither a beginning nor an end, but merely one installment in the ongoing “long war.” Tours, Lepanto, Vienna…those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.