Monday, April 04, 2011

My response to "Muslim Heritage, my eye:" Same tune, different lyrics

Sigh. This message is making the rounds, and appeared in my email today:

Barack Obama,
during his recent Cairo speech, said:
"I know, too, that Islam has always been a part
of America's story."

Dear Mr. Obama:
Were those Muslims that were in America when the Pilgrims
first landed? Funny, I thought they were
Native American Indians.

Were those Muslims that celebrated the first Thanksgiving
day? Sorry again, those were Pilgrims and
Native American Indians.

Can you
show me one Muslim signature on the United
States Constitution?

of Independence ?
Bill of Rights?

Didn't think so.
Did any Muslims fight for this country's freedom from England? No.

Did any Muslims fight during the Civil War to free the
slaves in America ? No, they did
not. In fact, Muslims to this day are
still the largest traffickers in human
slavery in the world. Your own half brother, a devout
Muslim, still advocates slavery himself, even
though Muslims of Arabic descent refer to black
Muslims as "pug nosed slaves." Says a lot
of what the Muslim world really thinks of your
family's "rich Islamic heritage," doesn't it Mr.

Where were Muslims during the Civil Rights era of this
country? Not present.

There are no pictures or media accounts of Muslims walking
side by side with Martin Luther King, Jr. or helping to advance the cause of Civil Rights.

Where were Muslims during this country's Woman's Suffrage
era? Again, not present. In fact, devout Muslims demand that women be subservient to men in the Islamic culture. So much so, that often they are beaten for not wearing the 'hajib' or for talking to a man who is not a
direct family member or their husband. Yes, the Muslims are all for women's rights, aren't they?

Where were Muslims during World War II? They were
aligned with Adolf Hitler. The Muslim grand mufti himself met with Adolf Hitler, reviewed the troops and accepted support from
the Nazi's in killing Jews.

Mr. Obama, where were Muslims on Sept. 11th,
2001? If they weren't flying planes into the World Trade Center , the Pentagon or a field in Pennsylvania killing nearly 3,000 people on
our own soil, they were rejoicing in the Middle East . No one can dispute the pictures shown from all parts of the Muslim world celebrating on CNN, Fox News, MSNBC and other cable news networks that day. Strangely, the very "moderate" Muslims who you bent over backwards to kiss in Cairo, Egypt on June 4th were stone cold silent post 9-11. To many Americans, their silence has meant approval for the acts of that day.

And THAT, Mr. Obama, is the "rich heritage" Muslims have here
in America ..

Oh, I'm sorry, I
forgot to mention the Barbary Pirates.
They were Muslim.

And now we can
add November 5, 2009 - the slaughter of 12 American
soldiers at Fort Hood by a Muslim Major who was a
doctor and a psychiatrist and who was supposed to be counseling soldiers returning from battle in Iraq and Afghanistan. Nidal Malik Hasan, this Muslim Major was chanting "Allâhu Akbar" ("God is great") as he killed 12 American soldiers and an American civilian at Fort Hood, Texas

That, Mr. Obama is the "Muslim Heritage" in America .

Every American Should Read This!!
Be sure to forward this to as many people as you can!

Here is my response:

I. This Message is Historically Myopic

It seems the writer of "Muslim Heritage" is unaware of the following:
Early national period

American views of Islam affected debates regarding freedom of religion during the drafting of the state constitution of Pennsylvania in 1776. Constitutionalists promoted religious toleration while Anticonstitutionalists called for reliance on Protestant values in the formation of the state's republican government. The former group won out, and inserted a clause for religious liberty in the new state constitution. American views of Islam were influenced by favorable Enlightenment writings from Europe, as well as Europeans who had long warned that Islam was a threat to Christianity and republicanism.[16]

When Benjamin Franklin helped establish a non-denominational religious meeting house in Philadelphia, he emphasized its non-sectarian nature by stating that "even if the Mufti of Constantinople were to send a missionary to preach Mohammedanism to us, he would find a pulpit at his service".[17] Franklin also wrote an anti-slavery parody piece claiming to be translation of the response of a government official at Algiers to a 17th-century petition to banish slavery there; the piece develops the theme that Europeans are specially suited for enslavement on cultural and religious grounds, and that there would be practical problems with abolishing slavery in North Africa; this satirizes similar arguments that were then made about the enslavement of Blacks in North America.[18]

Peter Salem, a former slave who fought at the Battle of Bunker Hill, is speculated to have Muslim connections based on his Islamic-sounding name. "Saleem" means "one who is peaceful" in Arabic and is related to the word salaam. Salem's name was said by a Jewish man to be similar to the word shalom, which also means peace. Other American Revolution soldiers with Islamic names include Salem Poor, Yusuf Ben Ali, Bampett Muhamed, Francis Saba, and Joseph Saba.[19]

Between 1785 and 1815, over a hundred American sailors were captive in Algiers for ransom. Several wrote captivity narratives of their experiences that gave most Americans their first view of the Middle East and Muslim ways, and newspapers often commented on them. The views were generally negative. Royall Tyler wrote The Algerine Captive (1797), an early American novel depicting the life of an American doctor employed in the slave trade who becomes himself enslaved by Barbary pirates. Finally Presidents Jefferson and Madison sent in the Navy to confront the pirates, and ended the threat in 1815.[20][21][22]

Bilali (Ben Ali) Muhammad was a Fula Muslim from Timbo Futa-Jallon in present day Guinea-Conakry, who arrived to Sapelo Island during 1803. While enslaved, he became the religious leader and Imam for a slave community numbering approximately eighty Muslim men residing on his plantation. During the War of 1812, Muhammad and the eighty Muslim men under his leadership protected their master's Sapelo Island property from a British attack.[23] He is known to have fasted during the month of Ramadan, worn a fez and kaftan, and observed the Muslim feasts, in addition to consistently performing the five obligatory prayers.[24] In 1829, Bilali authored a thirteen page Arabic Risala on Islamic beliefs and the rules for ablution, morning prayer, and the calls to prayer. Known as the Bilali Document, it is currently housed at the University of Georgia in Athens.
Religious freedom

In 1776, John Adams published "Thoughts on Government," in which he praises the Islamic prophet Muhammad as a "sober inquirer after truth" alongside Confucius, Zoroaster, Socrates, and other thinkers.

In 1785, George Washington stated a willingness to hire "Mahometans," as well as people of any nation or religion, to work on his private estate at Mount Vernon if they were "good workmen." It was a rhetorical statement, as he hired no such people.[25]

In 1790, the South Carolina legislative body granted special legal status to a community of Moroccans. In 1797, President John Adams signed a treaty declaring the United States had no "character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity, of Mussulmen".[26]
Thomas Jefferson defended religious freedom in America including those of Muslims. Jefferson explicitly mentioned Muslims when writing about the movement for religious freedom in Virginia. In his autobiography Jefferson wrote "[When] the [Virginia] bill for establishing religious freedom... was finally passed,... a singular proposition proved that its protection of opinion was meant to be universal. Where the preamble declares that coercion is a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, an amendment was proposed, by inserting the word 'Jesus Christ,' so that it should read 'a departure from the plan of Jesus Christ, the holy author of our religion.' The insertion was rejected by a great majority, in proof that they meant to comprehend within the mantle of its protection the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mahometan, the Hindoo and infidel of every denomination."[28] While President, Jefferson also participated in an iftar with the Ambassador of Tunisia in 1809.[29]
Anti-Islam sentiments

However, not all politicians were pleased with the religious neutrality of the Constitution, which prohibited any religious test. Anti-Federalists in the 1788 North Carolina ratifying convention opposed the new constitution; one reason was the fear that some day Catholics or Muslims might be elected president. William Lancaster said:.[30]
Let us remember that we form a government for millions not yet in existence.... In the course of four or five hundred years, I do not know how it will work. This is most certain, that Papists may occupy that chair, and Mahometans may take it. I see nothing against it.
Indeed, in 1788 many opponents of the Constitution pointed to the Middle East, especially the Ottoman Empire as a negative object lesson against standing armies and centralized state authority.[31]
19th century
There are recorded instances of Muslims in the United States military during the American Civil War. Muhammad Ali ibn Said (also known as Nicholas Said), formerly enslaved to an Arab master, came to the United States in 1860 where he found a teaching job in Detroit. In 1863, Said enlisted in the 55th Massachusetts Colored Regiment in the United States Army and rose to the rank of sergeant. He was later granted a transfer to a hospital department, where he gained some knowledge of medicine. His Army records state that he died in Brownsville, Tennessee in 1882.[32] Another Muslim soldier from the Civil War was Max Hassan, an African who worked for the military as a porter.[33]

A Muslim named Hajj Ali (commonly spelled as "Hi Jolly") was hired by the United States Cavalry in 1856 to raise camels in Arizona and California. He would later become a prospector in Arizona.[34][35] Hajj Ali died in 1903.[32]

Alexander Russell Webb is considered by historians to be the earliest prominent Anglo-American convert to Islam in 1888. In 1893 he was the only person representing Islam at the first Parliament for the World's Religions.[37]
Many of the slaves brought to colonial America from Africa were Muslims.[38][39] By 1800, some 500,000 Africans arrived in what became the United States. Historians estimate that between 15 to 30 percent of all enslaved African men, and less than 15 percent of the enslaved African women, were Muslims. These enslaved Muslims stood out from their compatriots because of their "resistance, determination and education".[40]

It is estimated that over 50% of the slaves imported to North America came from areas where Islam was followed by at least a minority population. Thus, no less than 200,000 came from regions influenced by Islam. Substantial numbers originated from Senegambia, a region with an established community of Muslim inhabitants extending to the 11th century.[41]

Michael A. Gomez speculated that Muslim slaves may have accounted for "thousands, if not tens of thousands," but does not offer a precise estimate. He also suggests many non-Muslim slaves were acquainted with some tenets of Islam, due to Muslim trading and proselytizing activities.[42] Historical records indicate many enslaved Muslims conversed in the Arabic language. Some even composed literature (such as autobiographies) and commentaries on the Quran.[43]

Some newly arrived Muslim slaves assembled for communal Salah (prayers). Some were provided a private praying area by their owner. The two best documented Muslim slaves were Ayuba Suleiman Diallo and Omar Ibn Said. Suleiman was brought to America in 1731 and returned to Africa in 1734.[41] Like many Muslim slaves, he often encountered impediments when attempting to perform religious rituals and was eventually allotted a private location for prayer by his master.[43]

Omar Ibn Said (ca. 1770–1864) is among the best documented examples of a practicing-Muslim slave. He lived on a colonial North Carolina plantation and wrote many Arabic texts while enslaved. Born in the kingdom of Futa Tooro (modern Senegal), he arrived in America in 1807, one month before the US abolished importation of slaves. Some of his works include the Lords Prayer, the Bismillah, this is How You Pray, Quranic phases, the 23rd Psalm, and an autobiography. In 1857, he produced his last known writing on Surah 110 of the Quran. In 1819, Omar received an Arabic translation of the Christian Bible from his master, James Owen. Omar converted to Christianity in 1820, an episode widely used throughout the South to "prove" the benevolence of slavery. However, some scholars believe he continued to be a practicing Muslim, based on dedications to Muhammad written in his Bible.[44][4
Modern immigration
Small-scale migration to the U.S. by Muslims began in 1840, with the arrival of Yemenites and Turks,[41] and lasted until World War I. Most of the immigrants, from Arab areas of the Ottoman Empire, came with the purpose of making money and returning to their homeland. However, the economic hardships of 19th-Century America prevented them from prospering, and as a result the immigrants settled in the United States permanently. These immigrants settled primarily in Dearborn, Michigan; Quincy, Massachusetts; and Ross, North Dakota. Ross, North Dakota is the site of the first documented mosque and Muslim Cemetery, but it was abandoned and later torn down in the mid 1970s. A new mosque was built in its place in 2005.[37]
1906 Bosnian Muslims in Chicago, Illinois, started the D emijetul Hajrije (Jamaat al-Hajrije) (The Benevolent Society; a social service organization devoted to Bosnian Muslims). This is the longest lasting incorporated Muslim community in the United States. They met in Bosnian coffeehouses and eventually opened the first Islamic Sunday School with curriculum and textbooks under Bosnian scholar Sheikh amil Avdi (Kamil Avdich) (a graduate of al-Azhar and author of Survey of Islamic Doctrines).
1907 Lipka Tatar immigrants from the Podlasie region of Poland founded the first Muslim organization in New York City, the American Mohammedan Society.[46]
1915, what is most likely the first American mosque was founded by Albanian Muslims in Biddeford, Maine. A Muslim cemetery still exists there.[47][48]
1920 First Islamic mission station was established by an Indian Ahmadiyya Muslim missionary, followed by the building of the Al-Sadiq Mosque in 1921.
1934 The first building built specifically to be a mosque is established in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
1945 A mosque existed in Dearborn, Michigan, home to the largest Arab-American population in the U.S.

Construction of mosques sped up in the 1920s and 1930s, and by 1952, there were over 20 mosques.[37] Although the first mosque was established in the U.S. in 1915, relatively few mosques were founded before the 1960s. Eighty-seven percent of mosques in the U.S. were founded within the last three decades according to the Faith Communities Today (FACT) survey. California has more mosques than any other state.

Chinese Muslims have immigrated to the United States and lived within the Chinese community rather than integrating into other foreign Muslim communities. Two of the most prominent Chinese American Muslims are the Republic of China National Revolutionary Army Generals Ma Hongkui and his son Ma Dunjing who moved to Los Angeles, California after fleeing from China to Taiwan. Pai Hsien-yung, son of the Chinese Muslim General Bai Chongxi, is a Chinese Muslim writer who moved to Santa Barbara, California after fleeing from China to Taiwan.


Historically, Muslim Americans tended to support the Republican Party. In the 2000 Presidential election, nearly eighty percent of Muslim Americans supported Republican candidate George W. Bush over Democratic candidate Al Gore. However, support for the Republicans among Muslims declined sharply. By 2004, Bush's Muslim support had been reduced by at least half, who would vote for Democratic candidate John Kerry or a third party candidate.[85]

On July 31, 2000, Talat Othman opened the Republican National Convention with a Muslim benediction, marking the first time a Muslim had addressed a major US political gathering.[86]


According to a 2004 telephone survey of a sample of 1846 Muslims conducted by the polling organization Zogby, the respondents were more educated and affluent than the national average, with 59% of them holding at least an undergraduate college degree.[87] Citing the Zogby survey, a 2005 Wall Street Journal editorial by Bret Stephens and Joseph Rago expressed the tendency of American Muslims to report employment in professional fields, with one in three having an income over $75,000 a year.[88] The editorial also characterized American Muslims as "role models both as Americans and as Muslims".

As of May 30, 2005, over 15,000 Muslims were serving in the United States Armed Forces.[94]

A Pew report released in 2009 noted that nearly six-in-ten American adults see Muslims as being subject to discrimination, more than Mormons, Atheists, or Jews.[95] While Muslims comprise less than two percent of the American population, they accounted for approximately one quarter of the religious discrimination claims filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission during 2009.[96]

The writer of "Muslim Heritage, my eye" might also be interested in these sites:

Your facts regarding Muslim Americans are incorrect written by Jamal Badaani, a Muslim marine.

Besa: Muslims Who Saved Jews in World War II by Norman H. Gershman

II. This Message is Nativistic

"Muslim heritage, my eye" reminds me of the sort of nativist sentiment that some Protestants have directed towards Catholics. It seems to me that Protestants need to repent of such calumnies, and that both Protestants and Catholics need to avoid being tempted to repeat them toward Muslims.

This site details Anti-Catholicism on the Net.  It provides a disturbing witness to the long history of anti-catholic prejudice in America. It's author, David Cruz-Uribe, SFO (third order of St. Francis, ) loosely categorizes Anti-Catholic themes, including the following ways:

  • ridiculing or misinterpreting Catholic doctrine or practice;
  • ascribing to the Catholic Church a sinister role in an anti-Christian or anti-American conspiracy
  • distorting or taking out of context illegal or scandalous behavior (especially sexual misconduct) by Catholic clergy or laity.
ISTM you could substitute "Semitic" or "Muslim" for "Catholic" and arrive at the same sort of prejudice, which fuels the KKK and other nativist groups. As Sean Baker writes,

...nativism represents the dangers of a cultural identity gone too far, a nationalism which refuses to accept those of a different faith or place. Finally, the past effects of nativism should urge any national or cultural identity to ask itself this question: can a group have the ability to balance its cultural pride with the importance of respecting and accepting those who are different?

Messages like "Muslim heritage" stir up hysteria, not unlike the sort of hysteria raised by Paul Blanshard's American Freedom and Catholic Power

American Freedom and Catholic Power is an anti-Catholic[1] book by American writer Paul Blanshard, published in 1949 by Beacon Press, which asserted that America had a "Catholic problem" in that the Church was an "undemocratic system of alien control". The book has been characterized as "vicious",[2] propaganda[who?] and as "the most unusual bestseller of 1949-1950".[3] It was based on a series of articles that he had published in the magazine The Nation.

Reception and criticism

When the book was released, The New York Times refused to accept advertising for the book and many bookstores refused to carry it.[8] However, the book circulated widely, selling in excess of 300,000 copies.[citation needed] It was praised by John Dewey, Albert Einstein, Bertrand Russell and Horace Kallen as well as scholarly reviewers.[9] A work of rebuttal, Catholicism and American Freedom was written by James M. O'Neill and published in 1952. Blanshard's rejoinder to O'Neill and others was the pamphlet My Catholic Critics.[10] Blanshard published a second edition that updated the book.

William A. Donohue of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights calls it a "hate-filled" book that raised the "old canard of 'dual loyalties'" and included such "rubbish" as Blanshard's "Catholic Plan for America", which purportedly entailed "seizing the government, repealing the first amendment, outlawing divorce, and making the pope the president's official superior".[11] Philip Jenkins, the Protestant author of The New Anti-Catholicism: The Last Acceptable Prejudice, notes that the book contains echoes of the views of the American Protective Association and the Ku Klux Klan and, although Blanshard's plan of "resistance" to Catholicism did not prescribe the violence of those earlier anti-Catholic predecessors, that in the shadow of World War II readers would read the word resistance to have such an implication.[12]

Catholic author Robert Lockwood states the work essentially makes a secularist argument, despite having its foundation in English anti-Catholism of a Protestant variety.[13]

Blanshard's autobiography indicates that his precipitating concern in 1946, which propelled him to commence research, was the influence of Catholic doctrine upon the practice of medicine generally, and obstetrics specifically. The book incorporated nativist sentiments into its anti-Catholicism, including that the Church was a foreign power in America determined to dominate the world.[4][5]

Sound familiar? "Muslim Heritage, my eye!" offers us the same tune, only with different lyrics.


Anonymous said...

Hi Beth,

May I know where do you get all of these information related to Muslim from? I clicked at the number of footnotes? but they don't direct me to the source. Could you help me? Gracias!

Beth B said...

Pak,as stated in the body of my post,my information, came from Wikipedia

If you go there, you will be able to click on the footnotes and get the sources. Hope this helps!

kowther noor said...

That was an amazing reply couldn't have said it better

Beth B said...

Thanks kowther noor.

I hope my readers understand that I am a Christian, not a Muslim. As a Christian, I believe it is a sin to lie, and to spread lies. I get frustrated when people--no matter what their religious affiliation--twist or suppress the truth. May the Christ lead us into His light and truth!