CHARLOTTE, NC: On January 17, the newly elected members of Congress were sworn in and Democrats once again took control of the House of Representatives. It didn’t take long for new controversies to arise as Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) took her oath on what has become known as “Jefferson’s Quran.”
In the process. Tlaib stated that
“Some of our Founding Fathers knew more about Islam than some members of Congress now.”
Like so many aspects of contemporary rhetoric, only half of Tlaib’s statement is true. It is a fact that some, if not most, members of Congress know little about Islam. That can also be said of most Americans including, and this is where the deception comes in, Congresswoman Tlaib herself.
Former President Barack Obama made several references to the Jefferson Quran during his time in office, primarily as a means to distort the idea that Islam has been a part of American heritage since the infancy of the country.
Specifically, Obama’s words were,
“Islam has been woven into the fabric of our country since its founding.”
Obama even went so far as to say that it was Jefferson who began the tradition of the Iftar Dinner at the White House, which is an outright falsehood.
Both Obama and Tlaib insist that “Muslims were there at the beginning.”
Technically true, just not in the sense they mean it.
Though the story of the Jefferson Quran is historically complicated, the simplest explanation is that he obtained his translation of the Islamic holy book in an effort to understand the Barbary Pirates who pillaged three American merchant ships between 1784 and 1784.
One of the early facets of American independence was the loss of our protection from the British navy. Great Britain and Europe had been victims of Muslim piracy for nearly 600 years. For the newly formed United States, the problems being in unfamiliar territory.
The truth is, had it not been for the Barbary Pirates, the United States Navy might have taken much longer to come into existence. It was Muslim pirates that helped kick-start the formation of our Navy. Those events reinvigorated the necessity of a strong naval defense after initial attempts had largely been unsuccessful.
The Marine Corps Hymn references that part of our history its very first sentence, “From the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli.” (Emphasis added)
Jefferson’s Quran was a translation by George Sales in 1734.
Sales wrote that in his mind, “Providence has reserved the glory of (Islam’s) overthrow” to the Protestants.
With that background, one has to question the wisdom of using a Koran that was purchased for the reason of overthrowing Muslims. Perhaps it is Mr. Obama and Rep. Tlaib who fail to understand Islam and/or its history.
Jefferson purchased the Quran in 1765, while he was still a law student. Since it was regarded by many as a book of laws, the future president probably used the Koran as part of his legal education.
That’s hardly the purpose for which Obama and Tlaib would have us believe it was used.
The United States and centuries of paying off Barbary Pirates
The United States had been paying extortion fees to the Barbary Pirates for years. The Muslims continued to raise their demands to the extent that by 1800, the fledgling nation was paying 20% of its government expenditures to satisfy the ransom.
Fourteen years earlier, in 1786, both Jefferson and John Adams went to London to visit a Muslim ambassador. In later correspondence to the Secretary of Foreign Affairs, John Jay, Jefferson wrote,
“The Ambassador answered us that it was founded on the Laws of their Prophet, that it was written in their Koran, that all nations who should not have acknowledged their authority were sinners, that it was their right and duty to make war upon them wherever they could be found, and to make slaves of all they could take as Prisoners, and that every Muslim who should be slain in battle was sure to go to Paradise.”
Using the actual text from the Koran in Surah (Chapter) 9:5 Jefferson’s message is on target:
“When the sacred months are over slay the idolaters wherever you find them. Arrest them, besiege them, and lie in ambush everywhere for them. If they repent and take to prayer and render the alms levy, allow them to go their way.”
John Quincy Adams, the 6th president of the United States, later wrote:
“He (Muhammed) poisoned the sources of human felicity at the fountain, by degrading the condition of the female sex, and the allowance of polygamy; and he declared undistinguishing and exterminating war, as a part of his religion, against all the rest of mankind. The essence of his doctrine was violence and lust—to exalt the brutal over the spiritual part of human nature.”
A war of twelve hundred years
Between these two religions (Christianity and Islam), thus contrasted in their characters, a war of twelve hundred years has already raged. The war is yet flagrant…” (Emphasis in the original text)
The story of the Jefferson Koran has its place in history. That story is far more complex than simply maintaining that Jefferson’s ownership of the Koran was an endorsement of Islam. Because that is a leap of faith that is not born out.
Islam was, indeed, “there at the beginning.” However, if we use that logic, the snake in the Garden of Eden was also there at the beginning as well. And long before Muhammad.
About the Author:
Bob Taylor is a veteran writer who has traveled throughout the world. Taylor was an award-winning television producer/reporter/anchor before focusing on writing about international events, people and cultures around the globe.
Taylor is the founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)
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