Posted on August 26, 2004

State Plays Orwellian with Columbus

Robert Spencer,, Aug. 26

George Orwell knew that if you can control a people’s past, you can control its present; that’s why in 1984 he has a whole government department — the Ministry of Truth — devoted to rewriting history. Now, twenty years beyond Orwell’s nightmare year, we call the Ministry of Truth the State Department: in a press release issued Monday, “Islamic Influence Runs Deep in American Culture,” Phyllis McIntosh of State’s Washington File burbles that “Islamic influences may date back to the very beginning of American history. It is likely that Christopher Columbus, who discovered America in 1492, charted his way across the Atlantic Ocean with the help of an Arab navigator.”

Rewrite the history books, indoctrinate the children, and you can own the future. The bit about the Arab navigator is not just being put out by State, but will also be taught in Massachusetts public schools this year. Some lucky Massachusetts teachers were treated all of last week to a workshop called “The Genesis and Genius of Islam.” It featured professors from Boston College, College of the Holy Cross, Harvard, and Bridgewater State College, including Ibrahim Kalin, assistant professor of religious studies at Holy Cross. According to a local Massachusetts paper, Kalin said that “Islamic sailors were the best seamen of the day,” and “noted that even Christopher Columbus had several Muslim sailors on his voyage that wound up in the New World.”

It’s funny: just a few years ago, on a Manhattan street on Columbus Day, I saw a small band of furious protestors stalk by chanting “Columbus! Did Not! Discover! America!” But now the old sea dog is useful again, despite the fact that an unlikelier candidate to be poster child for multiculturalism could hardly be found. Columbus was only sailing in the first place to find a way that European traders (who were Christians in those days) could avoid land routes to the Far East. Those land routes were controlled by Muslims, whom Europeans didn’t find to be paragons of peace and tolerance. Columbus was commissioned by Ferdinand and Isabella, who had just defeated the last Muslims in Spain and driven them out of the country.

Did Columbus tag after the retreating Muslims and hire a navigator and a few sailors? Well, in fact his navigator’s name was Martin Pinzon, who served as captain of the Pinta. Of the known names of his crew members, there is an abundance of Juans and Pedros, but nary a Mahmoud or Ahmad. In those days, Christian names almost always meant the bearer was a Christian. As Muhammad Ali and Yusuf Islam can tell you, it is unlikely that a Muslim would have borne a Christian name. It is even more unlikely that Muslim crewmen would have willingly served under Christians. Muslim Spain was not the multicultural paradise of modern myth, but was rather a Sharia state in which non-Muslims were forbidden to hold authority over Muslims. This law was sometimes ignored, but always at the expense of arousing the resentment of the Muslim populace; would Muslim sailors who had so recently been citizens of this state have willingly signed on to take orders from Christians — and men against whom they had so recently been at war? Also, Muslim sailors would not have found Columbus’s ships a congenial atmosphere: Columbus firmly believed that the Christian God had called him to this mission. The crew prayed — Christian prayers, not multicultural paeans to the Supreme Blob, and certainly not the maghrib and isha prayers — often on the ship. They even broke out in Te Deum, laudamus when they sighted land.

So why are the State Department and the Massachusetts public schools purveying this hooey? They well understand that it is about contemporary politics. Speaking of his students, a Massachusetts history teacher who attended the workshop asked: “How can they understand Iraq if they don’t know the history of the people?”

Indeed. But it really isn’t the history of Iraq, or of Columbus’ voyages, that State and the Massachusetts educrats are interested in. What they’re really on about is the history — and future — of the United States. Their multiculturalist fantasy history is designed, of course, to make Americans more accepting of an influential Islamic presence in the country. But unfortunately, since no one seems concerned about how to screen terrorists out of this Islamic presence, they’re likely to find that the Muslims to whom they have surrendered their history — and who they have invited into their future — are no less multicultural than their forefathers of 1492.

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