Jihad Watch, by Hugh Fitzgerald, October 27, 2016:
Ever since 9/11, mosques and “Islamic centers” have been conducting campaigns of determined “outreach” to non-Muslims. The point of this “outreach” is to present Islam as the least threatening of faiths, one which has been too often misunderstood and its adherents unfairly maligned, and those adherents are only too glad to clear up misconceptions about their faith. One such gathering was held on September 16 at the Islamic Center of Boston in Wayland, Massachusetts, billed as “Meet Your Muslim Neighbors.”
The first “misconception” that the Muslim hosts thought needed to be cleared up had to do with how long Muslims have been in America. “People think that Muslims have just come here to this country,” said Shaheen Akhtar, who is an “interfaith liaison” and runs an “interfaith book club” at the Center. She told her audience that Jefferson and John Adams had both owned copies of the Qur’an. Her implication was clear: these men took a sympathetic interest in Islam. She even described Jefferson as “advocating for the rights of the practitioners of the faith.” This implies special pleading on his part for Islam. What Jefferson actually did was “advocate” for the principle of religious freedom in general, and famously quoted a line from John Locke’s 1698 A Letter Concerning Religious Toleration: “neither Pagan nor Mahamedan [Muslim] nor Jew ought to be excluded from the civil rights of the Commonwealth because of his religion.”
However, there were those whom Locke expressly excluded from toleration, and applying his own criteria, Muslims might well have been among them.
At the website of Apologetics Press:
Dr. Dave Miller has noted that in a section of A Letter Concerning Toleration dealing with those whom a civil magistrate “cannot” tolerate, Locke lists the following (page numbers refer to the 1796 edition of Locke’s Letter):Those whose religious opinions are contrary to “those moral rules which are necessary to the preservation of civil society” (1796, p. 53);
- The religion that “teaches expressly and openly, that men are not obliged to keep their promise” (p. 54);
- “[T]hose that will not own and teach the duty of tolerating all men in matters of mere religion…and that they only ask leave to be tolerated by the magistrate so long, until they find themselves strong enough to [seize the government]” (p. 55);
- All those who see themselves as having allegiance to another civil authority (p. 56). Specifically, Locke gives the example of the Muslim who lives among Christians and would have difficulty submitting to the government of a “Christian nation” when he comes from a Muslim country where the civil magistrate was also the religious authority. Locke notes that such a person would have grave difficulty serving as a soldier in his adopted nation (cf. the 2009 Fort Hood shooting spree by a Muslim soldier who shouted, “Allahu Akbar” as he opened fire, killing 13 and wounding 32; see Stewart, 2010).
- “[T]hose are not at all to be tolerated who deny the being of a God” (p. 56).
#1-#4 would all seem to disqualify Islam from such toleration.
But what did those visitors to the Islamic Center know about Jefferson’s reliance on Locke, and Locke’s criteria, that would have excluded Islam from “toleration”? And what did they know about, what could they reasonably conclude, from the Qur’ans owned by Jefferson and Adams?
Both Jefferson and Adams were intellectually voracious; they were curious about Islam, as they were curious about so many things; curiosity is not endorsement. Jefferson purchased his Qur’an, translated by the English lawyer and Orientalist George Sale, in 1765. Later, dealing with the problem of the Barbary Pirates, the North African Muslims who attacked Christian shipping and Christian sailors (and enormous sums were being spent by the young Republic to buy off these Muslim marauders), Jefferson, along with John Adams, met with the Tripolitanian envoy Sidi Haji Abdrahaman in London in 1786. Perhaps reading the Qur’an helped Jefferson to understand the motivations of this unexpected enemy; certainly by the time he became President in 1801, he was determined not to negotiate with the Barbary Pirates, but to implacably oppose with force these Muslims whom, he knew, were permanently hostile to all non-Muslims.
In London, Jefferson and Adams had queried the Tripolitanian ambassador”concerning the ground of the pretensions to make war upon nations who had done them no injury” for the Americans had done nothing to deserve being attacked, and the ambassador replied, as Jefferson reported:
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; and that every mussulman who was slain in this warfare was sure to go to paradise.
And later, Jefferson reported to Secretary of State John Jay and to Congress at greater length:
The ambassador answered us that [the right] was founded on the Laws of the Prophet, that it was written in their Koran, that all nations who should not have answered 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 Mussulman who should be slain in battle was sure to go to Paradise.
These reports do not sound as if they came from someone who thought well of Islam. The more dealings Jefferson had with the representatives of the Barbary states, and the more he studied the tenets of the faith, the more he began to grasp the aggressive nature of Islam, the centrality of Jihad, the inculcation of permanent hostility toward non-Muslims, and the heavenly reward for Jihadis slain in battle.
As for John Adams, his owning a Qur’an did not signify an endorsement of Islam. While Jefferson’s Qur’an was that translated by George Sale, the Qur’an that Adams owned was translated by the Sieur de Ryer in 1647 into French, and from that an English translation appeared in 1649, and then published in the United States in 1806. And that edition of the “Alcoran of Mahomet” is prefaced by this: “This book is a long conference of God, the angels, and Mahomet, which that false prophet very grossly invented; sometimes he introduceth God, who speaketh to him, and teacheth him his law, then an angel, among the prophets, and frequently maketh God to speak in the plural. … Thou wilt wonder that such absurdities have infected the best part of the world, and wilt avouch, that the knowledge of what is contained in this book, will render that law contemptible.”
On July 16, 1814, in a letter to Jefferson, John Adams described the Muslim prophet Muhammad as one of those (he listed others as well) who could rightly be considered a “military fanatic,” one who “denies that laws were made for him; he arrogates everything to himself by force of arms.”Adams is nowhere on record as praising any aspect of Islam, nor even “advocating” its toleration.
Visitors to the Islamic Center of Boston were told only that Adams and Jefferson both owned Qur’ans, and that Jefferson “advocated” for Islam. They were not told what Jefferson and John Adams themselves had concluded about Islam and Muhammad (see above), or what their experience of dealing with Muslim powers had been, for that might have given those visitors pause.
And they were certainly not told that another American president, the formidable scholar John Quincy Adams, had studied the Qur’an, and the history of Islamic conquest, more thoroughly than any of our presidents before or since, and even felt impelled, from his study of both Islamic texts and of the history of Islamic conquest, to write a longer work on Islam. Here is some of what he wrote:
He [Muhammad] declared undistinguishing and exterminating war, as a part of his religion, against all the rest of mankind…The precept of the Koran is, perpetual war against all who deny, that Mahomet is the prophet of God.
In the seventh century of the Christian era, a wandering Arab of the lineage of Hagar [i.e., Muhammad], the Egyptian, combining the powers of transcendent genius, with the preternatural energy of a fanatic, and the fraudulent spirit of an impostor, proclaimed himself as a messenger from Heaven, and spread desolation and delusion over an extensive portion of the earth. Adopting from the sublime conception of the Mosaic law, the doctrine of one omnipotent God; he connected indissolubly with it, the audacious falsehood, that he was himself his prophet and apostle. Adopting from the new Revelation of Jesus, the faith and hope of immortal life, and of future retribution, he humbled it to the dust by adapting all the rewards and sanctions of his religion to the gratification of the sexual passion. He poisoned the sources of human felicity at the fountain, by degrading the condition of the female sex, and the allowance of polygamy; and he declared undistinguishing and exterminating war, as a part of his religion, against all the rest of mankind. THE ESSENCE OF HIS DOCTRINE WAS VIOLENCE AND LUST: TO EXALT THE BRUTAL OVER THE SPIRITUAL PART OF HUMAN NATURE [Adam’s capital letters]….Between these two religions, thus contrasted in their characters, a war of twelve hundred years has already raged. The war is yet flagrant…While the merciless and dissolute dogmas of the false prophet shall furnish motives to human action, there can never be peace upon earth, and good will towards men.”
As the essential principle of his faith is the subjugation of others by the sword; it is only by force, that his false doctrines can be dispelled, and his power annihilated. They [The Russians — J. Q. Adams was here discussing the endless war of the Russians] have been from time immemorial, in a state of almost perpetual war with the Tatars, and with their successors, the Ottoman conquerors of Constantinople. It were an idle waste of time to trace the causes of each renewal of hostilities, during a succession of several centuries. The precept of the Koran is, perpetual war against all who deny, that Mahomet is the prophet of God. The vanquished may purchase their lives, by the payment of tribute; the victorious may be appeased by a false and delusive promise of peace; and the faithful follower of the prophet, may submit to the imperious necessities of defeat: but the command to propagate the Moslem creed by the sword is always obligatory, when it can be made effective. The commands of the prophet may be performed alike, by fraud, or by force. Of Mahometan good faith, we have had memorable examples ourselves. When our gallant [Stephen] Decatur had chastised the pirate of Algiers, till he was ready to renounce his claim of tribute from the United States, he signed a treaty to that effect: but the treaty was drawn up in the Arabic language, as well as in our own; and our negotiators, unacquainted with the language of the Koran, signed the copies of the treaty, in both languages, not imagining that there was any difference between them. Within a year the Dey demands, under penalty of the renewal of the war, an indemnity in money for the frigate taken by Decatur; our Consul demands the foundation of this pretension; and the Arabic copy of the treaty, signed by himself is produced, with an article stipulating the indemnity, foisted into it, in direct opposition to the treaty as it had been concluded. The arrival of Chauncey, with a squadron before Algiers, silenced the fraudulent claim of the Dey, and he signed a new treaty in which it was abandoned; but he disdained to conceal his intentions; my power, said he, has been wrested from my hands; draw ye the treaty at your pleasure, and I will sign it; but beware of the moment, when I shall recover my power, for with that moment, your treaty shall be waste paper. He avowed what they always practised, and would without scruple have practised himself. Such is the spirit, which governs the hearts of men, to whom treachery and violence are taught as principles of religion.
Clearly, neither Jefferson, nor John Adams, nor his son John Quincy Adams had anything good to say about Islam. Indeed were they to utter such sentiments today they would most likely be declared “right-wing islamophobes” and consigned to the outer darkness. But the visitors to the Islamic Center were deliberately left with the impression that Jefferson and Adams were defenders, not detractors, of Islam.