President Obama’s remarks thanking Muslims for “building the very fabric of our nation” and claiming they were in part responsible for “the core of our democracy” have left many in and outside of Washington scratching their heads. But the Founding Fathers would find the comments even more baffling.
Far from incorporating Islam into America’s early tapestry, their own writings reveal the Founding Fathers were at war with the creed and its adherents.
In 1801, President Jefferson sent the Navy to the Barbary Coast to stop Islamic pirates’ reign of terror on U.S. merchant ships. Jefferson read the Quran to understand what was motivating the pirates, and he learned that the Muslim holy book commanded the faithful to “plunder and enslave” non-Muslims.
In 1814, after Tripoli broke its truce and began attacking U.S. ships again, former President John Adams wrote Jefferson a letter advising that Islam’s founder and prophet was “a military fanatic.” In another writing, he condemned Islamic law as “contemptible.”
His son and future president, John Quincy Adams, went further, arguing that the essence of Islam is “violence and lust: to exalt the brutal over the spiritual part of human nature.” He suggested the Quran’s commands to fight and conquer other lands “in the cause of Allah” were at odds with democracy, peace and the Judeo-Christian ethic on which America was founded.
“The precept of the Koran is perpetual war against all who deny that Muhammad is the prophet of God,” he added. “The vanquished may purchase their lives by the payment of tribute; the victorious may be appeased by a false and delusive promise of peace; and the faithful follower of the prophet may submit to the imperious necessities of defeat: but the command to propagate the Muslim creed by the sword is always obligatory, when it can be made effective. The commands of the prophet may be performed alike by fraud or by force.”
Last month, celebrating the end of the Muslim holiday Ramadan, Obama extolled “the many achievements and contributions of Muslim Americans to building the very fabric of our nation and strengthening the core of our democracy.” He also claimed we share “common values” with Islam.
Republican official Bob FitzSimmonds, who serves as GOP treasurer in Virginia, called the statement “pure nonsense” in a post on his Facebook page.
“Exactly what part of our nation’s fabric was woven by Muslims?” he demanded.
The Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR, condemned FitzSimmonds, calling for his ouster, before attempting to clarify the president’s remarks.
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In a press release, CAIR spokesman Ibrahim Hooper explained that Obama was referring to “the 20 percent of the slaves bought [sic] to America who were Muslim. I think they may have had something to do with building our nation.”
Historians, however, have disputed such a large percentage. They estimate slaves imported to the 13 colonies from predominantly Muslim areas of Africa until 1808 – the year the U.S. outlawed the international slave trade – numbered in the thousands, not hundreds of thousands.
The population of Muslims in America remained so tiny after emancipation that not a single mosque was established in this country until 1934. Called the “Mother Mosque of America,” it stands today in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
No Muslims, in fact, are recorded fighting in the Civil War or World War I.
It wasn’t until immigration was liberalized in the 1960s that large waves of Muslims began moving to America. At that time, their presence totaled under 150,000. Though their numbers today total in the millions, Muslims still make up less than one percent (0.8 percent) of the population, according to the Pew Research Center, and will only account for 1.7 percent by 2030.
With such a small population, critics say it’s implausible that Muslim Americans would have the outsized influence on American society that Obama credits them with having.
Muslims did not establish their own political institutions in America until the 1980s, and they didn’t elect a representative to Congress until 2007.
In the same CAIR press release, Hooper noted that “Obama could also have been thinking of the thousands of American Muslims who serve in the military; Muslim religious leaders like Warith Dean Muhammad or Malcolm X; Keith Ellison and Andre Carson, the first Muslim Americans to serve in Congress; basketball great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar or boxing great Muhammad Ali.”
What’s striking about all these Muslim luminaries is that they made their mark on American society only recently, and started out as Christians or secularists before converting to Islam. They all adopted their faith. None inherited Islam or can point back to a rich family history in that religion or culture in America.
Historians say major gaps exist between American and Muslim cultures.
“Muslims, particularly Arab Muslims, seem slow to assimilate compared to other post-1965 groups,” wrote Harvard University professor Samuel P. Huntington in “Who Are We?”
He blamed it on the “indigestible” nature of Muslim culture and its incompatibility with Western culture.
Huntington pointed to a study of Los Angeles Muslims that found, “A significant number of Muslims, particularly immigrant Muslims, do not have close ties or loyalty to the United States.”
A large share of Muslims in the study said it was quite important to replace public schools with Islamic schools.
Far from contributing to American traditions and culture, Huntington concluded, Muslims for the most part share an antagonistic attitude toward them.
That antagonism, Huntington wrote, is rooted in “the fear of American power, envy of American wealth, resentment of what is perceived as American domination and exploitation, and hostility to American culture, secular and religious, as the antithesis of Muslim culture.” He also says Muslim antagonism “stems in part from American support for Israel.”
Added Huntington: “Muslims increasingly see America as their enemy.”
Yet Obama, who enjoys 72 percent popularity among U.S. Muslims, insists America is a Judeo-Christian-Islamic nation. It’s not the first time he’s made such a claim.
In 2010, he released a statement saying, “Islam has always been part of America,” and, “American Muslims have made extraordinary contributions to our country.”
Critics says the president is guilty of rewriting American history to make Islam look good in the wake of Muslim attacks on America, from 9/11 to Fort Hood to the Boston Marathon.
“Before too long, it will be taught in all the textbooks,” warned Jihad Watch’s Robert Spencer.