CHARLOTTE, N.C., February 10, 2016 — One of President Obama’s favorite talking points during the last seven years has been Thomas Jefferson and the Quran he had in the White House library. The president tells this story with such conviction that nobody ever challenges its historical accuracy.
The third president of the United States would be appalled at the accounts given by the 44th president of what actually took place in the 18th and 19th centuries, but Jefferson died 190 years ago. Why worry about a few factual errors in order to make the point more convincing today, as Obama has done?
The Barbary Pirates were Muslim thugs who terrorized ships in the Mediterranean and a vast chunk of the North Atlantic at their height in the 18th century. The word “terror” is the right one. Islamic extremists were every bit as active two centuries ago as they are today.
Before the American Revolution, U.S. merchant ships were protected by Great Britain, but when independence was declared in 1776, the country turned to France for security on the high seas.
Following the war, the newly formed nation had to protect its own shipping fleet, which led to the establishment of the United States Navy.
In 1778, the Islamic pirates of the Barbary nations had become so much of a problem that the Treaty of Amity and Commerce between France and the United States specifically decreed that France would intervene diplomatically to protect captured American sailors and to stop Muslim attacks on our ships.
In 1784, seventeen years before Thomas Jefferson took office as president, he was the United States minister to France. In that same year, Congress chose appeasement rather than war with the Muslim marauders, thus following in the footsteps of European countries that were paying huge bribes to the Barbary States.
The next year, after Algerian pirates captured more American ships, the Dey of Algiers demanded a huge ransom for that era—$60,000. Though Jefferson opposed further payments and proposed a coalition of nations to fight the Islamic forces, Congress voted to pay the extortion money instead.
When Jefferson and John Adams met with Tripoli’s ambassador to Great Britain in 1786, they asked the Islamic leader why Muslims were so hostile toward America and what right they had to attack our ships and enslave our sailors.
The ambassador, Sidi Haji Abdul Rahman Adja responded that Islam “was founded on the Laws of their Prophet, that it was written in their Quran that all nations who would not acknowledge their authority were sinners, that it was their right and duty to make war upon them wherever they could be found.”
That should sound familiar. It was no different two centuries ago than it is today.
Over the next 15 years, the U.S. government paid millions of dollars to the Muslims for safe passage and the return of American hostages, n sum amounting to more than 20 percent of the U.S. government revenues in the year 1800.
This all came to an abrupt halt in 1801, soon after Jefferson took the oath of office as President of the United States. When the Pasha of Tripoli sent a demand to the new commander in chief seeking a payment of $225,000 plus and annual fee of $25,000 as a guarantee against future attacks, Jefferson threw down the gauntlet.
Realizing it was impossible to negotiate with Muslims, something Jefferson’s current predecessor still does not understand, the third president formed the United States Marine Corps, who followed the Muslim raiders back to their homes and killed them all, including their families.
Soon thereafter, the Muslim attacks ceased, and American and French flags once again waved from the masts of merchant ships in the Mediterranean.
Though Jefferson adhered to the tradition of religious tolerance in America, he also realized that Islam was different. His White House Quran and his personal experiences with Muslim terror taught him that Islam is a religion based on a sense of supremacy; it uses its holy book as a mandate for conducting violence against non-believers.
It is from these historical events that the lyrics of the Marine Corps Hymn begin, “From the halls of Montezuma, to the shores of Tripoli …”
And that, Mr. President, is the real reason Thomas Jefferson had a Quran in the White House library.
Bob Taylor has been traveling the world for more than 30 years as a writer and award-winning television producer focusing on international events, people and cultures around the globe. Taylor is founder of the Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)
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