In his message to Muslims on their holiday Eid al-Fitr, issued Sunday, Barack Obama asserted that “Eid also reminds us of the many achievements and contributions of Muslim Americans to building the very fabric of our nation and strengthening the core of our democracy.” He did not, unfortunately, provide even a single example of these “many achievements and contributions” that Muslims have made to “building the very fabric of our nation,” but he said that there were many, so they shouldn’t be hard to list a few, right?
You remember a few of them, don’t you? Remember the Muslim signers of the Declaration of Independence? With Yahya al-Hanqoq’s large signature front and center, so that the infidel King George III could read it without his spectacles? And then there was Ibrahim Clark of New Jersey and El-Bridge Gerry of Massachusetts. Remember also the Muslims who gave James Madison information about Muhammad’s Constitution of Medina – which, as we all know, granted equal rights to women and religious minorities, predating such documents in the West by 1,000 years. Madison, of course, used the Medina Constitution as a model when framing the U.S. Constitution.
Then there were the Muslims who fought so valiantly during the War of 1812 and the Mexican War. And in the titanic struggles over slavery, Muslims were front and center: remember the Muslim abolitionist Senators who faced down the South in the antebellum Senate, the Senate chamber ringing with their oratory about how the Qur’an says to free slaves and so the U.S. government should, too? Remember the Muslim regiments in the Civil War (all on the Union side, of course!)? Then in the aftermath of the Civil War came the Muslim industrialists who brought us railroads, the telegraph, the telephone.
Not to be forgotten are the Muslims who also fought courageously in the Spanish-American War, World War I and World War II, and the Muslim entertainers who kept us laughing on the Vaudeville circuit and on the home front during those terrible world wars with their jokes from the Hadith.
None of this rings a bell? Not to worry. Before too long it will be taught in all the textbooks. Absurd? Maybe – but no more than Obama’s statement itself. And even if they don’t go so far as to Islamize John Hancock and imagine Muslim Americans fighting against slavery and defending America in world wars, public school textbooks already present a ridiculously rosy picture of Islam. A study by the American Textbook Council, an independent national research organization that evaluates the quality of textbooks, found that ten of the most widely used middle school and high school social studies textbooks “present an incomplete and confected view of Islam that misrepresents its foundations and challenges to international security.”
The books present highly tendentious constructions as undisputed truth, making common cause with West-hating multiculturalists to bowdlerize the presentation of Islam, denigrate or downplay Christianity and Western civilization, and transform numerous public school textbooks into proselytizing tracts.
Meanwhile, even though the Constitution of Medina is of highly doubtful authenticity and is contradicted both by Islamic law and by Islamic traditions about Muhammad’s actions, it is already becoming common for Islamic apologists to invoke it as evidence that Islam and democracy are not only compatible, but that Islam originated the idea of republican rule. Ahmadi Muslim apologist Qasim Rashid recently wrote in the Huffington Post that “when Prophet Muhammad was popularly appointed Medina’s ruler, he entered into a pact with the Jewish communities of Medina. Through this pact, he granted equal political rights to non-Muslims. They were ensured complete freedom of religion and practice.” Undercutting Rashid’s case are the facts that Muhammad ended up exiling two of the Jewish tribes of Medina and massacring the third, and that the Qur’an mandates that Jews (and Christians) in the Islamic state, rather than enjoying “equal political rights,” must “pay the jizya with willing submission and feel themselves subdued” (9:29).
But facts just get in the way of the narrative, and so the facts must go. It feels so good and multicultural to imagine Muslims at the founding of this nation, contributing to its very fabric, doesn’t it? Heck, speaking of fabric, probably Betsy Ross was a Muslim. And doesn’t the flag of South Carolina have a crescent moon on it?
Likewise regarding slavery – I imagine Muslim abolitionists above in pre-Civil War America above, in trying to give some substance to Barack Obama’s absurd statement. In reality, of course, there were no Muslim abolitionists, or Muslims, in the antebellum United States. What’s more, there were no Muslim abolitionists anywhere. Islamic apologists in the West routinely claim that Islam forbids slavery, but in fact the Qur’an takes slavery for granted, and according to Islamic tradition, Muhammad hallowed the practice by owning slaves himself. In some Muslim nations, it is still practiced, even though it is against the law (laws that initially began to be adopted in Muslim countries under Western pressure). Mauritania, for example, abolished slavery in 1981 and made it a crime in 2012, but it is still widespread — because it has Islamic sanction. Yet I myself remember being taught in high school, way back in the 1970s, that the last country to abolish slavery was Brazil, in 1889. There was no mention of Saudi Arabia’s abolishing slavery in 1962, or of the persistence of the practice in some Muslim countries. And that was forty years ago, showing that whitewashing of Islam in the textbooks, now rampant, had begun even then.
So when it comes to Barack Obama’s claim that Muslim Americans have made contributions to “building the very fabric of our nation and strengthening the core of our democracy,” if there were no Muslim Founding Fathers scrutinizing the Constitution of Medina for material they could use in the charter document of their new nation, then they have to be invented. The textbooks have already departed from reality regarding Islam – what could possibly be the problem with a few more steps into fantasy? What difference, at this point, does it make? Yahya al-Hanqoq, grab your quill!
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