U.S. Representative Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), following the lead of the insufferable Keith Ellison, opted to be inducted with a copy of the Koran for her congressional swearing-in ceremony. “My swearing in on the (Koran) is about me showing that the American people are made up of diverse backgrounds and we all have love of justice and freedom,” Tlaib told reporters. “My faith has centered me. The prophet Mohammed was always talking about freedom and justice.”
“It’s important to me because a lot of Americans have this kind of feeling that Islam is somehow foreign to American history,” Tlaib said. “Muslims were there at the beginning.”
Tlaib isn’t wrong. Muslims were, indeed, “there at the beginning.” The famous Thomas Jefferson copy of the Koran that Keith Ellison used, for example, was translated by British lawyer George Sale and its purpose was for use by Christians seeking to convert Muslims, to prepare evangelizers to combat Islam.
According to his foreword, Sale intended for Christians to use his Koran to “undeceive those who, from the ignorant or unfair translations which have appeared, have entertained too favourable an opinion of the original, and also to enable us effectually to expose the imposture.”
More important, and to Tlaib’s point, it was the struggle against Islam that introduced the United States to an ideological conflict thereto “foreign to American history.”
The official hymn of the United States Marine Corps, you may know, opens with the verse: “From the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli.” Just how a Libyan city founded in the 7th century B.C. by the Phoenicians ended up on the Colors of the Corps, later to be sung in its hymn, is a bit of unremembered historical “diversity” for Tlaib and her allies.
War with the Barbary Pirates
In 1779, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison proposed the Virginia Statute on Religious Freedom, the preamble of which began with the declaration “that Almighty God hath created the mind free.” In an effort to render the language more explicit, Patrick Henry and others pushed an effort to substitute “Almighty God” with “Jesus Christ”—not that in a room full of Christians, of one sort or another, the identity of “Almighty God” was in any serious question. Nevertheless, Henry’s revision was voted down.
The founder perhaps most steeped in Enlightenment thought, Jefferson perceived the vote to mean that Virginia’s representatives desired the law “to comprehend, within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mahomedan, the Hindoo, and Infidel of every denomination.”
Jefferson’s idealism, however, soon came to clash with the sword of the Prophet.
Accompanied by John Adams, Jefferson met with the Ambassador of Tripoli in 1786 to broker peace with Muslims who had been enriching themselves through piracy against American ships, and by conducting slave raids on European Christians. Philip Jenkins reminds us that “Barbary pirates from North Africa raided the Irish village of Baltimore, and took several hundred local people into lifelong captivity.” It was the Sack of Baltimore that inspired Thomas Davis to write his famous poem of the same name.
All, all asleep within each roof along that rocky street,
And these must be the lover’s friends, with gently gliding feet—
A stifled gasp, a dreamy noise! “The roof is in a flame!”
From out their beds and to their doors rush maid and sire and dame,
And meet upon the threshold stone the gleaming sabre’s fall,
And o’er each black and bearded face the white or crimson shawl.
The yell of “Allah!” breaks above the prayer, and shriek, and roar:
O blessed God! the Algerine is lord of Baltimore!
“Modern commentators often stress that Islam has played a very significant, if underappreciated, role throughout European history,” writes Jenkins. “That is absolutely correct. But that role was often very negative, indeed pernicious, in its effects.” The same, history will show, applies to the United States.
Though they came in peace, Jefferson and Adams, like Baltimore’s doomed, received no peace in return. Writing to John Jay, Jefferson seemed bewildered that although he and Adams informed their Muslim hosts that they “considered all mankind as our friends who had done us no wrong, nor had given us any provocation,”
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 Musselman who should be slain in battle was sure to go to Paradise.
Through a squinted eye, such utter irreverence toward Adams and Jefferson isn’t so dissimilar from Tlaib’s shriek that “We are going to go in and impeach the motherf—-r”—that is, President Trump.
America’s founding generation ultimately found that “freedom and justice” are provinces reserved for those who live by the Laws of the Prophet. And so it went that the Marines were deployed to do battle with Muslims in North Africa. The Americans were victorious and for a time stopped the Christian slavery, but another Barbary War would come. Still, apologists will find the nerve to point to the Treaty of Tripoli and Adam’s signature beneath the douceur clause that “America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion,” hoping that observers don’t know better.
Indeed, they do so by ignoring not only that the phrase was struck from the superseding treaty of 1805, but that Adams himself declared in 1813 that the “general Principles, on which the Fathers Achieved Independence” were “the general Principles of Christianity,” and that those “general Principles of Christianity, are as eternal and immutable, as the Existence and Attributes of God.” That is, independence from British and Islamic imperialism alike.
Hollowing Out the Body Politic
Tlaib is a Palestinian nationalist. Her victory in the primaries was followed by a speech with the Palestinian flag draped around her shoulders. She opted to wear traditional Palestinian garb while being sworn into office. She chose the Koran for her ceremony, rather than, as an alternative, the Constitution for which she claims to stand. She has said that she intends to use our political system to “be a voice for” Palestinians, but not merely those in the United States, but a voice for what is essentially a stateless nation of people who generally hate Americans.
Still, I don’t believe that Tlaib is simply ignorant of the historical record that shows Western and Islamic civilizations perennially at odds. I believe that she knows it well. I also believe that she does indeed embrace our political institutions. She does so, however, not because she sincerely believes in the shining abstractions of progressivism. One cannot show irreverence, even hostility, toward the Christian and Jewish faith, and yet claim a principled stance of tolerance.
Rather, Tlaib is no different from Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, or perhaps even Mitt Romney, in that she understands politics as the effective instruments of power, privilege, jobs, and wealth for herself and her associates.
The real issue, then, is not Tlaib’s historical illiteracy or that Palestinian nationalism is gaining prominence in American politics, but that progressivism is the window dressing on the ongoing hollowing out of our body politic, conducted by very small minority of people, to promote their interests and the interests of their respective groups, against what was once known as the national interest.
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