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Saturday, October 23, 2010

On the Saracen Heritage of America

The Saracen Army outside Paris c. 730-732
Barack Obama, during his Cairo speech, said: "I know, too, that Islam has always been a part of America's story."

Prompting (oops, some!) Americans Right and Left to say: what??? There is this text by one citizen who undertook to write about the remark:

Dear Mr. Obama:

Were those Muslims that were in America when the Pilgrims first landed? Funny, I thought they were Native American Indians.

Were those Muslims that celebrated the first Thanksgiving day? Sorry again, those were Pilgrims and Native American Indians.

Can you show me one Muslim signature on the United States Constitution?

Declaration of Independence ?

Bill of Rights?

Didn't think so.

Did Muslims fight for this country's freedom from England ? No.

The text goes on... Google it.

Let us try to drive our bottom cent in that slot.

We have never read, at least not in those terms, that Islam should have had a say in the making of the American Heritage. Islam does crop up in the American Imaginary in stories like the Thousand and One Nights and other tales of the Crusades plus whatever we see in the Media these days....

We are of the opinion that Jews are more likely to have been there than Muslims have, from the beginning. 

We have got (to try) to understand that the American president was most probably referring to contributions made to America, by followers of Islam, in the present day. Baffling though it is. Surely we are no scholars so we cannot, possibly, enumerate these. And we are not keeping track. We have our own fish to fry.

We can most definitely say that the United States does depend on oil from regions where Islam is the dominant philosophical force. Here, (a lot of) the narrative changes (and you all know that). Period.

So, you driving or walking to the grocery store today?

The Address  

"I know, too, 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 since our founding, American Muslims have enriched the United States. They have fought in our wars, served in government, stood for civil rights, started businesses, taught at our Universities, excelled in our sports arenas, won Nobel Prizes, built our tallest building, and lit the Olympic Torch. 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."


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  1. Mauro: Remember that the current trend is to peg US VS THEM and the Muslim world fits in very well with their xenophobia.
    Of course President Obama was referring to the contribution Muslim-Americans have made.

  2. It really is difficult to think outside the box once you have been on a constant diet of manufactured reality, Raulito.

  3. This maybe sacrilege to some but in the courtroom where the US Supreme Court sits and listens to opposing arguments, the Justices are surrounded by stone sculptures of 18 lawgivers, from Hammurabi to John Marshall including Moses and the Prophet Muhammad. Surely that must say something of the influence of Islam on the law and possibly the Constitution of United States.

  4. Thanks, Ian. What the West is trying to fight are rogue elements that have hijacked Islam. The world is full of people we call "moderate muslims" that are peaceful and law-abiding and have their hands clear of any mischief. I've never been to the Supreme Court in the U.S., but I imagine that they draw from many positive sources, Islam inclusive.