Monday, June 13, 2011

Islam Influenced U.S. Founding Fathers

That's what one of President Barack Obama's recent appointees says. A summary of the YouTube video series by Dr Azizah al-Hibri says

Were the freedoms outlined in the U.S. Constitution influenced by the Quran? Professor Azizah Y. al-Hibri, President of Karamah: Muslim Women Lawyers for Human Rights, Islamic scholar and law professor at the University of Richmond, discusses the influences of the Quran and early Muslim history on Thomas Jefferson and the Founding Fathers. Listen as Dr. al-Hibri explains the implications of the Quran on U.S. Constitutional principles from freedom of religion to the separation of church and state.
She's right, in a way, but not in the way she seems to think. Islam did influence Thomas Jefferson, the fledgeling United States, and the Founding Fathers. Much of that influence was occasioned by the Barbary Coast caliphates attacks on shipping, taking U.S. seamen and civilians to be sold into slavery. These pirates promised safe passage for shipping in return for payment of tribute (protection money). The ambassador from Tripoli explained to Jefferson and John Adams that they did this because
"That's what we do. We are commanded to do so by Allah." Jefferson later wrote that the Tripoli ambassador told him, "It was written in their Koran that all nations which had not acknowledged the Prophet were sinners, whom it was the right and duty of the faithful to plunder and enslave; and that every mussulman (Muslim) who was slain in this warfare was sure to go to Paradise."
Thomas Jefferson was shocked. He bought and read the Koran. He learned what Islam was about. As a result, "Jefferson’s resolve to fight had its genesis in his reading the Koran as the best source of all things Muslim. Jefferson knew that 18th century Americans were in danger from what we call today conservative, Wahhabi-type, radical Islam." This was the early 19th century jihad. Jefferson sent the Navy and the Marines against Tripoli and the Barbary Coast. (Remember "... to the shores of Tripoli"?) This was the first foreign war for the U.S., and the beginning of the end for the Islamic caliphates. And it spared most of the world that kind of barbarism for nearly 200 years. That is the kind of influence Islam had on the Founding Fathers and the early history of the United States.

I also seriously doubt that bit about the influence of "early Muslim history" on Jefferson since that early history was separated from Jefferson and early U.S. history by more than 1100 years.

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