I didn’t know until today of a further statement President Obama made in his closing remarks at the Anti-Terrorism summit. This particular remark is simply unbelievable from a historical standpoint. Does the president not care at all to tell the whole truth, or any truth for that matter? Does he, as one writer put it, love America not for what it is, but only for what it (in his utopian vision) can be? And will he do and say anything to achieve that goal? Even shade and disregard the truth. Well, here is the quote—and it is to be understood as it appears to demand to be understood. Context does not change what he clearly said—whether he himself believes it or not. The quote:
“Islam has been woven into the fabric of our country since its founding.”
We might give him some benefit of the doubt and say he meant the general principles of Islamic religion are consistent with those of Christianity and Judaism, whose principles are in turn definitely embedded deeply in our culture since before the Founding era—though being eroded now. But even here he is wrong. The ethical and moral principles—which are what the president has in mind—of Islam are clearly not consistent with Judeo-Christian principles, unless they are interpreted in a way that causes them to resemble Western “liberal” values of toleration. The “warp and woof” of Islamic ethics based on the Quran contrasts hugely with those of the West, even after the West discarded the theological foundations of those principles. So the president is wrong here too.
At any rate, I am not convinced that is what the president meant. If one looks at his past comments along the same lines, he means that somehow Islam has played a historical role in the founding and early development of the United States. This of course is patently historically false. There is no mention of Islamic principles in the American founding documents, or at the discussions on the Declaration of Independence, or at the debates of the Constitutional Convention, or in the Constitution itself, or among the writers at those event (Jefferson, Madison, etc.), until well after 1787, with the exception of the Barbary pirate incident (1784-1816). And when they did come to discuss Islam, it was not favorably, but to point out its differences from Christianity, differences so vast as to make it unpalatable. Thomas Jefferson and John Quincy Adams both wrote about Islam in the context of the Barbary pirates. Jefferson actually possessed a copy of the Quran.
Islam at that time took this view of its vision for the world:
“The Ambassador answered us that it was founded on the Laws of the 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.” (Thomas Jefferson)
That sounds like something the American Founders would want to incorporate into our own nation’s principles, I say sarcastically. This kind of thinking goes back to the founding of Islam. Now it doesn’t mean it has been the only interpretation of the Quran. But it has been one of the predominant, if not the predominant, interpretation. One reason why it was not “noticed” for so long is because Islam was not an important player on the world scene until relatively recently. So its tenets and practices went largely unnoticed except when it sometimes impinged on European affairs.
But I digress. My point was that Islam did not play a part in American political, legal or economic thought during the colonial or Founding era. Nor did it have any but the slightest influence in the American republic, pre-Civil War, or the period from 1865-1900. It had only very few adherents, there was no mosque in the United States until about 1915, and the ideas of Islamic religion, politics and law were virtually unknown but for a handful of scholars.
So why President Obama made the statement above escapes me. But perhaps it is explainable, it is just that the explanation is completely outside the understanding of most Americans. That does not however, as many liberals believe, make most Americans stupid. It does make President Obama very much out of touch with ordinary citizens and horribly wrong about history, perhaps deliberately so.