Posted on August 20, 2010
Obama invents an Islamic-American past
In his August 13th remarks observing the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, President Obama told a dining room full of applauding Muslim guests that "Ramadan is a reminder that Islam has always been a part of America."
According to Obama's Improbable History, the United States must, to some degree, be characteristically Muslim because, "The first Muslim ambassador to the United States, from Tunisia, was hosted by President Jefferson, who arranged a sunset dinner for his guest because it was Ramadan." That would be flimsy premise for intertwining American and Islamic history, even if were a complete picture of what happened, which it's not.
What Obama didn't explain was that this ambassador, Sidi Soliman Melli Melli, was greeted by his American hosts with the utmost curiosity, for the very reason that his culture was so unlike anything that America had known. Furthermore, the ambassador did not make the voyage in order to participate in some dingbatty celebration of diversity, carrying a covered dish containing some allegedly Tunisian casserole. He came here to negotiate with Jefferson in the aftermath of the First Barbary War. Despite the fact that the Muslims had been brought to the table by a successful American military campaign, the terms of the agreement actually included a one-time ransom to be paid by the U.S., with the understanding that the Muslims' repeated demands for tribute would cease.
Unfortunately, this agreement didn't last. Once America needed its military resources to fight the War of 1812, the Barbary pirates took advantage of the distraction to resume their kidnappings, which ended only after the Second Barbary War, in 1815. So, basically, the first two times that the Muslim world introduced itself to America, it did so as the enemy. Yet Obama portrays Islam as having been an element of America from the time of its founding, based on Jefferson's delaying dinner for a couple hours, in an innocuous diplomatic gesture.
As Obama made his case for a kinship between America and Islam, this is what sufficed for Exhibit B: "Like so many other immigrants, generations of Muslims came to forge their future here." Of course they did, but that migration, many decades later, hardly supports the contention that their religion and culture had "always" been a part of America. Neither does Obama's pointing out the inevitable existence of "the oldest surviving mosque in America," in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
In another illustration of this supposedly inextricable link between American and Islamic culture -- which also served as part of his endorsement of the proposed Ground Zero mosque -- the president noted that, "They founded the first Islamic center in New York City in the 1890s." Ergo, Islam must have always been a part of America, just as sure as 1890 equals 1776.
Imagine the shrill cries of "theocracy" you'd hear from a roomful of liberal Democrats if somebody told them that Christianity has always been a part of America. Think how indignant they'd be, if that person's only support for his claim was the existence of the oldest church in America, the construction of a Christian center in New York, and a story about one of our early presidents showing deference to a guest in observance of Lent. Yet when President Obama makes a similar but unsupportable claim on behalf of a genuinely theocratic culture, his assertion stands unchallenged.
It should go without saying that Muslims are as welcome as anybody to emigrate to this country, provided they are willing to assimilate. Among other things, that means living under American law. By lying about the history of Islam in America, however, Obama is telling them that it is America that must conform to them, instead of the other way around.
If Islam is so integral to America, one might reason, then how could American law not respect Islamic law? Perhaps the two have grown apart over time, due to anti-Islamic bigotry. Maybe this rich but little-known Islamic-American tradition has been suppressed, and needs to be rediscovered through an intensive national awareness campaign. We can start by implementing it in our schools. Yeah, that's the ticket.
Too bad Jefferson wasn't as boorish a host as Obama has been, or he might have acted the way Obama did toward Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He could have simply excused himself for dinner whenever he felt like having it, and left Ambassador Melli Melli to fend for himself. Then what would Obama use as proof that Islam has always been a part of America? Crescent rolls?-- Daniel Clark is a Staff Writer for the New Media Alliance. The New Media Alliance is a non-profit (501c3) national coalition of writers, journalists and grass-roots media outlets.
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