Thursday, June 4, 2009

Obama's Cairo Address: The Dangerous Whitewashing Of History

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


Nemesis said...

The build up and election of Barack Hussein Obama would have to be the biggest fraud ever undertaken against the American people.

The people and organizations that enabled some and manipulated others, to advance this anti-American, anti-capitalist socialist into the Whitehouse, is surely the most breathtaking exercise in skullduggery that has ever been successful.

And while he leads America down a very dangerous path, his countless minions in their blinding idolatry, still worship him.

We are now living in very worrying time!

Cat said...

Excellent, GW. Thank you for a precise summary of the history of Muslim 'tolerance'. My reading supports your facts and conclusions.

suek said...

Anyone not familiar with the concept of taqiya (taqiyyeh and other spellings are often used) should research it.

I am convinced that Obama is a muslim posing as a Christian. This speech confirms it, as does the attitude of the islamic countries. By their standards, he _is_ a muslim, and the fact that he claims to be Christian makes him apostate. If they're not planning to kill him - or calling for his death - it means to me that _they_ think he's actually muslim as well, but is putting up a good front - in order to promote the welfare of islam. As every good muslim does.

Anonymous said...

Its astonishing how people try so hard to dig into history to find mistakes in the President's attempts to build bridges between cultures and nations. I can understand Al-Qaeda's dissatisfaction with the speech. But ordinary people and bloggers... Man, racism and Islamophobia is spreading like cancer among Americans. I hope Obama can change that.

GW said...

Thanks for the comments all. Anonymous - I do not take well to labels. If you think you can justify a charge of racism or Islamaphobia against me, then by all means, make it. If you think that disagreeing fundamentally with Obama's approach classifies as racism or Islamophobia, I think, my friend, you are deluded.

Anonymous said...

"To put that into context, our first war in America was with Islamic nations because they believe their Koran justified it"

"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"

These remarks and others are not only Islamophobic. But they also spread Islamophobia like fire. These posts will only create and increase fear and hatred against Muslims in the U.S.
You're basically sending a signal to Americans, telling them "Beware, this Muslim was raised to kill you!!"

I know you're addressing one strict and fundamentalist interpretation of Islam, but I can't see in your posts any favorable opinions of Islam, you didn't talk about the special ties between Islam, Christianity and Judaism in Koran (like Marriage, Food and Financial Trade). Nor did you mention that there are more moderate interpretations that promote peace. You spoke about historical wars with Muslims. But you failed to mention the day Saladin conquered Jerusalem and allowed Christians to stay and freely practice their religion, you didn't mention the well known *fact* that Jerusalem has never witnessed a unique and peaceful mixture of religions like it has under Saladin ruling. You also failed to mention the massacres that have been committed against Muslims when Jerusalem was conquered by Crusaders before Saladin conquered it.

Your intentions might not be spreading Islamophobia, but you're seriously - maybe unintentionally - encouraging prejudices against Muslims that already exist in a very high and undesirable degree.

GW said...

Anonymous - thank you very much for comment and sharing your thoughts.

We have some fundamental disagreements, but less than you might think. Perhaps if you take a look at a couple of other posts of mine, then we can continue our dialogue. The first concerns my perception of the single fundamental problem in the larger Muslim world - along with praise for Islam of a millenium ago and an embrace of ijtihad - please see

Beyond that, for praise of Islam in America and proactive support for non-Salafi Muslim organizations, please see

One of my great concerns is that the failure to be honest means that all of Islam gets lumped under a single heading. I have railed extensively against Salfism - and the Khomeiist varian of Shaia'ism with the veleyat-e-faqi - on my blog while at the same time lending extensive support to other sects that do not share Salafist dogma and some of whom would reform Islam.

The government's failure to make distinctions in their discussions is incredibly problematic. As I wrote in

[The government's failure to idenfity Salafism as the source of Islamic radicalism] leaves our populace without the knowledge to distinguish between a particularly dangerous ideology and a benign one - both of them being interspersed among us and throughout the world. This will lead to a a tendency to lump all Muslims under one banner. Most critically, it will marginalize and cut off from support those Muslims who would fight against the Salifization of their religion. And indeed, as this is in large measure an ideological struggle, it it the fight they will wage that will determine the future of Islam. We need to insure they win over Salafi Islam.

And there is yet another critical aspect to the the governments use of euphanisms to describe "radical Islam." It falsely implies that radical Islam is merely an anamoly. By doing that, our government provides cover for Wahhabi / Salafi Islamists to continue to spread their ideology free of criticism and publicity. This only allows the problems created by that Salafi Islam to fester and metasticize. It will only compounds the costs that we will eventually have to pay if and when things get to a point where some action must be taken against these purveyors of hatred, death and triumphalism.


At any rate, perhaps you will find what I have written in those other posts blunts your charges. I value my friendships with Muslims, which happens, by the way, to include some family members. I am completely opposed to certain things I find in Isalm, and in particular, Salafi Islam, and I refuse to be silent about them. Indeed, a great deal of my motivation is to protect those sects and practitioners of Islam who are benign and with whom peaceful relations in the modern world are possible. Dishonesty and silence will doom them. That is not Islamaphobia my friend, simply the hard truth.

I look forward to any further comments you might have. Thank you.