I am a student of history . . .
. . . [T]hroughout history, Islam has demonstrated through words and deeds the possibilities of religious tolerance and racial equality. I . . . know that Islam has always been a part of America's story. The first nation to recognize my country was Morocco. In signing the Treaty of Tripoli in 1796, our second President, John Adams, wrote, "The United States has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Muslims." . . . And when the first Muslim American was recently elected to Congress, he took the oath to defend our Constitution using the same Holy Koran that one of our Founding Fathers -- Thomas Jefferson -- kept in his personal library.
President Barack Obama, Address From Cairo, 4 June 2009
Obama is a student of history like Karl Marx was a student of the philosophy of Adam Smith. If in fact he ever studied it, he got it all wrong.
Nowhere is this more apparent than in Obama's twisting of our history with the "Islamic world." Obama attempts to portray our relations as friendly from the start, and suggests that there has never been any reason for a clash between Islam and America. This is not mere whitewashing, it is historical revisionism with potentially real and dangerous ramifications.
Let's start with Morocco, an Islamic nation on the north coast of Africa ruled in 1784 by Sultan Muhammad Ben Abdullah. Morocco was not only a nation that engaged in piracy, but it was directly involved in the first war our country fought after Independence - The Barbary Wars. Morocco, in 1784, was the first of the Barbary nations to capture a U.S. merchant vessel, the Betsey, in the Mediterranean and hold its crew hostage. We were then without a navy to protect our merchant ships. Morocco only recognized the U.S. in 1787 because we paid them a huge sum of money as tribute to leave our ships alone. That is hardly the ringing endorsement of friendship and goodwill that Obama seems to be claiming. Indeed, the 1796 treaty to which Obama also refers was one involving all of the "Barbary" nations and was again a futile attempt to end by tribute the pirate jihad being conducted by those nations. As Gerard W. Gawalt of the Library of Congress wrote:
In 1795 alone the United States was forced to pay nearly a million dollars in cash, naval stores, and a frigate to ransom 115 sailors from the dey of Algiers. Annual gifts were settled by treaty on Algiers, Morocco, Tunis, and Tripoli.
And Obama's citation to the words of John Adams is equally disingenuous. True, we had no inherent animus then or now against Islam. But just because we didn't does not mean that the reverse wasn't true. To the contrary, the other half of the story from the 1796 meeting of Thomas Jefferson and John Adams with an envoy from Tripoli was recorded by Jefferson, who wrote:
“. . . [Adams and Jefferson] ‘took the liberty to make some inquiries concerning the ground of the pretensions to make war upon nations who had done them no injury.’ The ambassador [from the Barbary States] replied that it was written in their Koran, that all nations which had not acknowledged the Prophet were sinners, whom it was the right and duty of the faithful to plunder and enslave.” He claimed every one of their guys who was “slain in this warfare was sure to go to paradise."
Directly related to that, and another critical point Obama neglected to mention, is that Thomas Jefferson did not own a Koran because he desired to study Islam for its merits. Jefferson bought and read a Koran because our major foreign policy challenge from 1786 to 1812 was our war with Barbary Pirates who used the Koran as justification for attacking American ships and enslaving American citizens. Jefferson's ownership of a Koran comes under the heading of "know thy enemy."
Obama does neither us nor the Islamic world any favors by twisting history and whitewashing Islam. It only strengthens those who seek to prevent Islam from evolving and it gives the West a distinctly unrealistic view of Islam when the reality is that an ever increasing proportion of Muslims are still today being taught that it is "right and duty of the faithful to plunder and enslave" non-Muslims. It is part of the curriculum being taught in Saudi financed madrassas and schools around the world:
A twelfth-grade Tawhid (monotheism) textbook states that “[m]ajor polytheism makes blood and wealth permissible,” which in Islamic legal terms means that a Muslim can take the life and property of someone believed to be guilty of this alleged transgression with impunity. (Tawhid, Arabic/Sharia, 15) Under the Saudi interpretation of Islam, “major polytheists” include Shi’a and Sufi Muslims, who visit the shrines of their saints to ask for intercession with God on their behalf, as well as Christians, Jews, Hindus, and Buddhists.
To put that into context, our first war in America was with Islamic nations because they believe their Koran justified it. That war came to a close only because the U.S. soon became powerful enough as to threaten those nations with destruction if they continued. Between 1776 and today, it would appear that nothing else has changed in dynamic of that relationship. The Salafists are still teaching that it is a precept of their religion that they can kill and enslave us as part of their faith. That is the reality that Obama needed to address. Not the feel good whitewash and historical revisionism he engaged in during his Cairo speech. People all around the world need to understand the reality. Perhaps then the weight of public opinion might begin to force a change.
Summary - Obama's Cairo Address: What We Needed, What We Got
Part 1 - Obama's Cairo Address: Hiding From The Existential Problems Of The Muslim World
Part 2 - Obama's Cairo Address: A Walk Back From Democracy & Iraq
Part 3 - Obama's Cairo Address: Obama Calls For Women's Rights While Glossing Over Discrimination & Violence
Part 4 - Obama's Cairo Address: Nukes, Iran & Weakness Writ Large
Part 5 - Obama's Cairo Address: Israel & Palestine – A Little Good, A Lot Of Outrageousness
Part 6 - Obama's Cairo Address: Islam's Tradition Of Religious Tolerance?
Part 7 - Obama's Cairo Address: The Dangerous Whitewashing Of History