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.
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.