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The Qur’an May Have Reinforced Thomas Jefferson’s Commitment to Religous Freedom

Posted in Anti-Loons, Feature with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 11, 2011 by loonwatch
Thomas_Jeffersons_QuranThomas_Jeffersons_Quran

There is a frequent attempt by Islam bashers to say that Thomas Jefferson’s purchase of the Qur’an was due to the dispute with Barbary Pirates in 1780. This excellent article written by Sebastian R. Prange puts that idea to rest,

Sifting through the records of the Virginia Gazette, through which Jefferson ordered many of his books, the scholar Frank Dewey discovered that Jefferson bought this copy of the Qur’an around 1765, when he was still a student of law at the College of William & Mary in Virginia. This quickly refutes the notion that Jefferson’s interest in Islam came in response to the Barbary threat to shipping. Instead, it situates his interest in the Qur’an in the context of his legal studies—a conclusion that is consistent with his shelving of it in the section on jurisprudence.

We also learn that Jefferson knew of Islam and the Qur’an from a work “closer to hand” titled, Of the Law of Nature and Nations by Samuel Von Pufendorf,

The standard work on comparative law during his time was Of the Law of Nature and Nations, written by the German scholar Samuel von Pufendorf and first published in 1672. As Dewey shows, Jefferson studied Pufendorf’s treatise intensively and, in his own legal writings, cited it more frequently than any other text. Pufendorf’s book contains numerous references to Islam and to the Qur’an. Although many of these were disparaging—typical for European works of the period—on other occasions Pufendorf cited Qur’anic legal precedents approvingly, including the Qur’an’s emphasis on promoting moral behavior, its proscription of games of chance and its admonition to make peace between warring countries. As Kevin Hayes, another eminent Jefferson scholar, writes: “Wanting to broaden his legal studies as much as possible, Jefferson found the Qur’an well worth his attention.”

What is most interesting is the idea that the Qur’an may have reinforced Jefferson’s commitment to religious freedom,

But did reading the Qur’an influence Thomas Jefferson? That question is difficult to answer, because the few scattered references he made to it in his writings do not reveal his views. Though it may have sparked in him a desire to learn the Arabic language (during the 1770′s Jefferson purchased a number of Arabic grammars), it is far more significant that it may have reinforced his commitment to religious freedom. Two examples support this idea.

In 1777, the year after he drafted the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson was tasked with excising colonial legacies from Virginia’s legal code. As part of this undertaking, he drafted a bill for the establishment of religious freedom, which was enacted in 1786. In his autobiography, Jefferson recounted his strong desire that the bill not only should extend to Christians of all denominations but should also include “within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mahometan [Muslim], the Hindoo, and infidel of every denomination.”

This all-encompassing attitude to religious pluralism was by no means universally shared by Jefferson’s contemporaries. As the historian Robert Allison documents, many American writers and statesmen in the late 18th century made reference to Islam for less salutary aims. Armed with tendentious translations and often grossly distorted accounts, they portrayed Islam as embodying the very dangers of tyranny and despotism that the young republic had just overcome. Allison argues that many American politicians who used “the Muslim world as a reference point for their own society were not concerned with historical truth or with an accurate description of Islam, but rather with this description’s political convenience.”

These attitudes again came into conflict with Jefferson’s vision in 1788, when the states voted to ratify the United States Constitution. One of the matters at issue was the provision—now Article vi, Section 3—that “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.” Some Anti-Federalists singled out and opposed this ban on religious discrimination by painting a hypothetical scenario in which a Muslim could become president. On the other side of the argument, despite their frequent opposition to Jefferson on other matters, the Federalists praised and drew on Jefferson’s vision of religious tolerance in supporting uncircumscribed rights both to faith and to elected office for all citizens. As the historian Denise Spellberg shows in her examination of this dispute among delegates in North Carolina, in the course of these constitutional debates “Muslims became symbolically embroiled in the definition of what it meant to be American citizens.”

It is intriguing to think that Jefferson’s study of the Qur’an may have inoculated him—to a degree that today we can only surmise— against such popular prejudices about Islam, and it may have informed his conviction that Muslims, no less and no more than any other religious group, were entitled to all the legal rights his new nation could offer. And although Jefferson was an early and vocal proponent of going to war against the Barbary states over their attacks on us shipping, he never framed his arguments for doing so in religious terms, sticking firmly to a position of political principle. Far from reading the Qur’an to better understand the mindset of his adversaries, it is likely that his earlier knowledge of it confirmed his analysis that the roots of the Barbary conflict were economic, not religious.

It is amazing that today many in the Tea Party and the anti-Muslim Movement who claim the mantle of patriotism are in stark opposition to founding fathers such as Jefferson. What would those who seek to curtail religious freedom for Muslims have to say about this?

They have more in common with the anti-Federalists who wished to use Muslims as a symbol to further their own political ends.

Thomas Jefferson’s Qur’an

by Sebastian R. Prange, photography provided by Aasil Ahmad (Saudi Aramco World)

Oacing the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C. stands the Jefferson Building, the main building of the Library of Congress, the world’s largest library, with holdings of more than 140 million books and other printed items. The stately building, with its neoclassical exterior, copper-plated dome and marble halls, is named after Thomas Jefferson, one of the “founding fathers” of the United States, principal author of the 1776 Declaration of Independence and, from 1801 to 1809, the third president of the young republic. But the name also recognizes Jefferson’s role as a founder of the Library itself. As president, he enshrined the institution in law and, in 1814, after a fire set by British troops during the Anglo-American War destroyed the Library’s 3000-volume collection, he offered all or part of his own wide-ranging book collection as a replacement for the losses, commenting that “there is in fact no subject to which a member of Congress may not have occasion to refer.”

Among the nearly 6500 books Jefferson sold to the Library was a two-volume English translation of the Qur’an, the book Muslims recite, study and revere as the revealed word of God. The presence of this Qur’an, first in Jefferson’s private library and later in the Library of Congress, prompts the questions why Jefferson purchased this book, what use he made of it, and why he included it in his young nation’s repository of knowledge.

These questions are all the more pertinent in light of assertions by some present- day commentators that Jefferson purchased his Qur’an in the 1780′s in response to conflict between the us and the “Barbary states” of North Africa—today Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya. That was a conflict Jefferson followed closely— indeed, in 1786, he helped negotiate a treaty with Morocco, the United States’ first treaty with a foreign power. Then, it was relations with Algeria that were the most nettlesome, as its ruler demanded the payment of tribute in return for ending semiofficial piracy of American merchant shipping. Jefferson staunchly opposed tribute payment. In this context, such popular accounts claim, Jefferson was studying the Qur’an to better understand these adversaries, in keeping with the adage “know thy enemy.” However, when we look more closely at the place of this copy of the Qur’an in Jefferson’s library—and in his thinking— and when we examine the context of this particular translation, we see a different story.

O rom his youth, Thomas Jefferson read and collected a great number of books, and a wide variety of them: The collection he eventually sold to the Library of Congress comprised 6487 volumes, ranging in subject from classical philosophy to cooking. Like many collectors of the time, Jefferson not only cataloged his books but also marked them. It is his singular way of marking his books that makes it possible to establish that, among the millions of volumes in today’s Library of Congress, this one specific Qur’an did indeed belong to him.

The initials "T.J." were Thomas Jefferson's device for marking his books: On this page, the "T." is the printer's mark to help the binder keep each 16-page "gathering" in sequence, and the "J." was added personally by Jefferson.
The initials “T.J.” were Thomas Jefferson’s device for marking his books: On this page, the “T.” is the printer’s mark to help the binder keep each 16-page “gathering” in sequence, and the “J.” was added personally by Jefferson.

In the 18th century, the production of books was still an essentially manual process. By means of a hand press, large sheets of paper were printed on both sides with multiple pages before being folded. They were folded once to produce four pages for the folio size, twice to produce eight pages for the quarto or four times to produce the 16-page octavo. These folded sheets, known as “gatherings,” were then sewn together along their inner edges before being attached to the binding. To ensure that the bookbinders would stitch the gatherings together in the correct sequence, each was marked with a different letter of the alphabet on what, after folding, would become that gathering’s first page.

Thus, in an octavo volume like Jefferson’s Qur’an, there is a small printed letter in the bottom right-hand corner of every 16th page. It was Jefferson’s habit to take advantage of these preexisting marks to discreetly inscribe each of his books. On each book’s 10th gathering, in front of the printer’s mark J he wrote a letter T, and on the 20th gathering, to the printed T he added a J, thereby in each case producing his initials. This subtle yet unmistakable signature appears clearly on the two leather-bound volumes in the Library of Congress.

Jefferson’s system of cataloging his library sheds light on the place the Qur’an held in his thinking. Jefferson’s 44-category classification scheme was much informed by the work of Francis Bacon (1561–1626), whose professional trajectory from lawyer to statesman to philosopher roughly prefigures Jefferson’s own career. According to Bacon, the human mind comprises three faculties: memory, reason and imagination. This trinity is reflected in Jefferson’s library, which he organized into history, philosophy and fine arts. Each of these contained subcategories: philosophy, for instance, was divided into moral and mathematical; continuing along the former branch leads to the subdivision of ethics and jurisprudence, which itself was further segmented into the categories of religious, municipal and “oeconomical.”

Jefferson’s system for organizing his library has often been described as a “blueprint of his own mind.” Jefferson kept his Qur’an in the section on religion, located between a book on the myths and gods of antiquity and a copy of the Old Testament. It is illuminating to note that Jefferson did not class religious works with books on history or ethics—as might perhaps be expected—but that he regarded their proper place to be within jurisprudence.

Jefferson organized his own library, and he shelved religious books, including his English version of the Qur'an, with other works under "Jurisprudence," which  under "Moral Philosophy."
Jefferson organized his own library, and he shelved religious books, including his English version of the Qur’an, with other works under “Jurisprudence,” which fell under “Moral Philosophy.”

The story of Jefferson’s purchase of the Qur’an helps to explain this classification. Sifting through the records of the Virginia Gazette, through which Jefferson ordered many of his books, the scholar Frank Dewey discovered that Jefferson bought this copy of the Qur’an around 1765, when he was still a student of law at the College of William & Mary in Virginia. This quickly refutes the notion that Jefferson’s interest in Islam came in response to the Barbary threat to shipping. Instead, it situates his interest in the Qur’an in the context of his legal studies—a conclusion that is consistent with his shelving of it in the section on jurisprudence.

Jefferson’s legal interest in the Qur’an was not without precedent. There is of course the entire Islamic juridical tradition of religious law (Shari’ah) based on Qur’anic exegesis, but Jefferson had an example at hand that was closer to his own tradition: The standard work on comparative law during his time was Of the Law of Nature and Nations, written by the German scholar Samuel von Pufendorf and first published in 1672. As Dewey shows, Jefferson studied Pufendorf’s treatise intensively and, in his own legal writings, cited it more frequently than any other text. Pufendorf’s book contains numerous references to Islam and to the Qur’an. Although many of these were disparaging—typical for European works of the period—on other occasions Pufendorf cited Qur’anic legal precedents approvingly, including the Qur’an’s emphasis on promoting moral behavior, its proscription of games of chance and its admonition to make peace between warring countries. As Kevin Hayes, another eminent Jefferson scholar, writes: “Wanting to broaden his legal studies as much as possible, Jefferson found the Qur’an well worth his attention.”

” We the General Assembly of Virginia do enact that no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer, on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect their
civil capacities.”

— From the Virginia Statute for
Religious Freedom, ratified 1786;
drafted by Thomas Jefferson in 1777

In his reading of the Qur’an as a law book, Jefferson was aided by a relatively new English translation that was not only technically superior to earlier attempts, but also produced with a sensitivity that was not unlike Jefferson’s own emerging attitudes. Entitled The Koran; commonly called the Alcoran of Mohammed, it was prepared by the Englishman George Sale and published in 1734 in London. A second edition was printed in 1764, and it was this edition that Jefferson bought. Like Jefferson, Sale was a lawyer, although his heart lay in oriental scholarship. In the preface to his translation, he lamented that the work “was carried on at leisure time only, and amidst the necessary avocations of a troublesome profession.” This preface also informed the reader of Sale’s motives: “If the religious and civil Institutions of foreign nations are worth our knowledge, those of Mohammed, the lawgiver of the Arabians, and founder of an empire which in less than a century spread itself over a greater part of the world than the Romans were ever masters of, must needs be so.” Like Pufendorf, Sale stressed Muhammad’s role as a “lawgiver” and the Qur’an as an example of a distinct legal tradition.

This is not to say that Sale’s translation is free of the kind of prejudices against Muslims that characterize most European works on Islam of this period. However, Sale did not stoop to the kinds of affronts that tend to fill the pages of earlier such attempts at translation. To the contrary, Sale felt himself obliged to treat “with common decency, and even to approve such particulars as seemed to me to deserve approbation.” In keeping with this commitment, Sale described the Prophet of Islam as “richly furnished with personal endowments, beautiful in person, of a subtle wit, agreeable behaviour, shewing liberality to the poor, courtesy to every one, fortitude against his enemies, and, above all, a high reverence for the name of God.” This portrayal is markedly different from those of earlier translators, whose primary motive was to assert the superiority of Christianity.

In addition to the relative liberality of Sale’s approach, he also surpassed earlier writers in the quality of his translation. Previous English versions of the Qur’an were not based on the original Arabic, but rather on Latin or French versions, a process that layered fresh mistakes upon the errors of their sources. Sale, by contrast, worked from the Arabic text. It was not true, as Voltaire claimed in his famous Dictionnaire philosophique of 1764, that le savant Sale had acquired his Arabic skills by having lived for 25 years among Arabs; rather, Sale had learnt the language through his involvement in preparing an Arabic translation of the New Testament to be used by Syrian Christians, a project that was underwritten by the Society for the Promotion of Christian Knowledge in London. Studying alongside Arab scholars who had come to London to assist in this work, he acquired within a few years such good command of the language that he was able to serve as a proofreader of the Arabic text.

It is thus not so surprising that Sale turned from translating the holy text of Christians into Arabic to rendering the holy text of Muslims into his native English. Noting the absence of a reliable English translation, he aimed to provide a “more genuine idea of the original.” Lest his readers be unduly daunted, he justified his choice of fidelity to the original by stating that “we must not expect to read a version of so extraordinary a book with the same ease and pleasure as a modern composition.” Indeed, even though Sale’s English may appear overwrought today, there is no denying that he strove to convey some of the beauty and poetry of the original Arabic.

An inscription inside the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C. quotes Jefferson's 1777 statute on religious pluralism that inspired the constitutional right that "no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust."
An inscription inside the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C. quotes Jefferson’s 1777 statute on religious pluralism that inspired the constitutional right that “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust.”

Sale’s aspiration to provide an accurate rendition of the Qur’an was matched by his desire also to provide his readers with a more honest introduction to Islam. This “Preliminary Discourse,” as he entitled it, runs to more than 200 pages in the edition Jefferson purchased. Fairly presented and conscientiously documented, it contains a section on Islamic civil law that repeatedly points out parallels to Jewish legal precepts in regard to marriage, divorce, inheritance, lawful retaliation and the rules of warfare. In this substantial discussion, Sale displays the same quality of dispassionate interest in comparative law that later moved Jefferson.

O ut did reading the Qur’an influence Thomas Jefferson? That question is difficult to answer, because the few scattered references he made to it in his writings do not reveal his views. Though it may have sparked in him a desire to learn the Arabic language (during the 1770′s Jefferson purchased a number of Arabic grammars), it is far more significant that it may have reinforced his commitment to religious freedom. Two examples support this idea.

In 1777, the year after he drafted the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson was tasked with excising colonial legacies from Virginia’s legal code. As part of this undertaking, he drafted a bill for the establishment of religious freedom, which was enacted in 1786. In his autobiography, Jefferson recounted his strong desire that the bill not only should extend to Christians of all denominations but should also include “within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mahometan [Muslim], the Hindoo, and infidel of every denomination.”

This all-encompassing attitude to religious pluralism was by no means universally shared by Jefferson’s contemporaries. As the historian Robert Allison documents, many American writers and statesmen in the late 18th century made reference to Islam for less salutary aims. Armed with tendentious translations and often grossly distorted accounts, they portrayed Islam as embodying the very dangers of tyranny and despotism that the young republic had just overcome. Allison argues that many American politicians who used “the Muslim world as a reference point for their own society were not concerned with historical truth or with an accurate description of Islam, but rather with this description’s political convenience.”

“The style of the Korân is generally beautiful and fluent, especially where it imitates the prophetic manner, and scripture phrases. It is concise, and often obscure, adorned with bold figures after the eastern taste, enlivened with florid and sententious expressions, and in many places, especially where the majesty and attributes of God are described, sublime and magnificent; of which the reader cannot but observe several instances, though he must not imagine the translation comes up to the original, notwithstanding my endeavours to do it justice.”

— from “A Preliminary Discourse”
by George Sale

These attitudes again came into conflict with Jefferson’s vision in 1788, when the states voted to ratify the United States Constitution. One of the matters at issue was the provision—now Article vi, Section 3—that “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.” Some Anti-Federalists singled out and opposed this ban on religious discrimination by painting a hypothetical scenario in which a Muslim could become president. On the other side of the argument, despite their frequent opposition to Jefferson on other matters, the Federalists praised and drew on Jefferson’s vision of religious tolerance in supporting uncircumscribed rights both to faith and to elected office for all citizens. As the historian Denise Spellberg shows in her examination of this dispute among delegates in North Carolina, in the course of these constitutional debates “Muslims became symbolically embroiled in the definition of what it meant to be American citizens.”

It is intriguing to think that Jefferson’s study of the Qur’an may have inoculated him—to a degree that today we can only surmise— ainst such popular prejudices about Islam, and it may have informed his conviction that Muslims, no less and no more than any other religious group, were entitled to all the legal rights his new nation could offer. And although Jefferson was an early and vocal proponent of going to war against the Barbary states over their attacks on us shipping, he never framed his arguments for doing so in religious terms, sticking firmly to a position of political principle. Far from reading the Qur’an to better understand the mindset of his adversaries, it is likely that his earlier knowledge of it confirmed his analysis that the roots of the Barbary conflict were economic, not religious.

Sale’s Koran remained the best available English version of the Qur’an for another 150 years. Today, along with the original copy of Jefferson’s Qur’an, the Library of Congress holds nearly one million printed items relating to Islam—a vast collection of knowledge for every new generation of lawmakers and citizens, with its roots in the law student’s leather-bound volumes.

Churches Across America Read From the Quran

Posted in Anti-Loons with tags , , , , , , on July 6, 2011 by loonwatch

(via. Islamophobia-Today)

Churches across America read from the Quran

by Tad Stahnke

Washington, DC – Although negative stories of Islamophobia in the United States abound in news media, most Americans respect religious diversity. That’s why on Sunday, June 26, thousands of people across America joined together at dozens of churches and other houses of worship across the country. Congregants united to do far more than read Christian scriptures; from Alabama to Alaska, from California to New York, worshippers also heard the words of Jewish and Muslim sacred texts as rabbis and imams joined pastors in leading an event called Faith Shared.

A joint project of Human Rights First and the Interfaith Alliance, Faith Shared brought Americans together to counter the anti-Muslim bigotry and negative stereotypes that have erupted throughout the country in the past few years and led to misconceptions, distrust and, in some cases, even violence.

If I were living in a Muslim-majority country, I might think the United States is filled with people burning the Quran, demonizing Islamic beliefs and tarring all Muslims as supporters of radicalism and terrorism. To the casual observer, the anti-Islam fervor of late would seem to bear that out, but the truth is far more complicated.

It is true that in recent years the United States has seen a disturbing trend of anti-Muslim violence, discrimination and rhetoric, as well as a general lack of understanding about Islam. We’ve seen Quran burnings, individuals attacked only because they are Muslim, a pipe bomb explosion at an Islamic community center in Florida and a surge in reported cases of discrimination against Muslims in workplaces and schools throughout the country.

But those incidents – all of which have grabbed headlines – don’t represent the views of so many Americans who respect religious freedom and the diversity of faiths that freedom brings. In fact, a recent poll by the Public Religion Research Institute found that more than 60 percent of Americans believe that Muslims are an important part of the American religious community, with strong agreement across political and religious lines. The Southern Poverty Law Center recently released a report showing that much of the hatred directed toward Muslims has been stirred up by a small but influential group of activists and media.

Discussions about the role of Islam and Muslims in American life have all too often degenerated into stereotypes and hatred. If not challenged, these can undermine respect for the religious freedom of all Americans and weaken our resilience as a nation.

And the concerns go beyond our country. What happens in the United States with respect to the treatment of Muslims, rightly or wrongly, has a huge impact overseas on the perception of the country in general, and on U.S. efforts to promote human rights abroad.

It’s imperative for the international community to support efforts to create responsive governments – those that give equal rights to members of all minorities, protect religious freedoms and allow for the freedoms of expression and assembly. The United States can and should play a key role in supporting those efforts.

For that reason, it’s vital to recognize that what happens in the United States – how Americans protect human rights and religious freedoms and how they deal with security issues in relation to the Muslim community – influences how the international community perceives the American people’s commitment to promoting democracy. A message of respect among religious groups in the United States, one that says anti-Muslim fervor is only a small part of the American story, will strengthen that commitment in the eyes of many.

As we continue in this effort, my colleagues and I are not naive about the challenges that can divide America along religious lines. Muslims are not alone among Americans in terms of bearing the brunt of stereotypes and hatred. Indeed, with the Faith Shared services, we sent and will continue to send a clear message: Despite the challenges, the way forward must begin with respect.

We cannot solve these problems in a day but on June 26, Americans across the country showed that we respect religious differences and reject the demonization of any religion. Americans are a nation not of the few who burn Qurans and incite hatred, but of the many who fully embrace religious freedom, tolerance and pluralism.

* Tad Stahnke is the Director of Policy and Programs at Human Rights First. This originally published by the Common Ground News Service, or CGNews.

Politico.com: Today, Muslims; Tomorrow, You

Posted in Anti-Loons, Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , on June 16, 2011 by loonwatch

A great piece from Roger Simon.

Today, Muslims; Tomorrow, You

by Roger Simon (Politico)

The return of Ask Dr. Politics! A forum for civil exchange in a civil society.

Dear Dr. Politics: Why are you such a jerk? You call Herman Cain “hateful” for wanting to protect Americans from Muslim militants who want to kill us. It’s you who is hateful!

Reply: Let’s look at the record. This is from PolitiFact.com, a Pulitzer Prize-winning, nonpartisan fact-checking organization that examines the statements of public figures. PolitiFact gives Cain its lowest rating, judging his statements on this issue “not accurate” and “ridiculous.”

Let’s start with Cain’s comments in a March 21 article in Christianity Today.

“And based upon the little knowledge that I have of the Muslim religion, you know, they have an objective to convert all infidels or kill them,” Cain said.

On May 26, a blogger for ThinkProgress.org asked Cain: “Would you be comfortable appointing a Muslim either in your Cabinet or as a federal judge?”

“No, I will not,” Cain replied. “And here’s why. There is this creeping attempt, there’s this attempt to gradually ease Sharia law and the Muslim faith into our government. It does not belong in our government.”

A few days later, Cain went on “Your World With Neil Cavuto” on Fox News.

“A reporter asked me, would I appoint a Muslim to my administration. I did say, ‘No,’” Cain said. “And here’s why. … I would have to have people totally committed to the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States. And many of the Muslims, they’re not totally dedicated to this country.”

Then, in Monday’s CNN debate, moderator John King accurately asked Cain about his statement that he would not appoint a Muslim to his Cabinet.

Cain replied that he never said that — only that he would not be “comfortable” appointing a Muslim to his Cabinet. This contradicted Cain’s statement to Cavuto.

“And I would not be comfortable because you have peaceful Muslims and then you have militant Muslims, those that are trying to kill us,” Cain said during the debate. “And so, when I said I wouldn’t be comfortable, I was thinking about the ones that are trying to kill us, No. 1. Secondly, yes, I do not believe in Sharia law in American courts.”

In my column on the debate, I called this not only “incoherent nonsense” but also “hateful, incoherent nonsense.”

But you want to know what’s worse? As an excellent editorial in The New York Times pointed out Tuesday, “None of the other candidates took [Cain] to task for this. Mitt Romney, a Mormon who has himself been the subject of religious slurs, at least mentioned the nation’s founding principle of religious tolerance and respect but missed an opportunity to include Muslims. Newt Gingrich tumbled over the historical cliff with the idea, announcing some kind of loyalty oath to serve in his administration, similar to that used in dealing with Nazis and Communists.”

I don’t know if Monday’s debate will be quickly forgotten, replaced in our memories by a jumble of other debates, but I am going to remember it as the debate in which the entire Republican field to date refused to speak out for Muslim-Americans. They refused to speak out for the ones fighting for America in our armed forces, for the ones serving in Congress and for the ones living peaceful, productive and, yes, American lives.

The silence of these candidates was an act of cowardice.

Keep in mind these famous words when it comes to failing to speak out for people who are unpopular. They are by Martin Niemoller, a Lutheran pastor, and they are famous enough that even Republican candidates for president should know them. Niemoller was speaking of the courage it took to remain a decent human being in Nazi Germany:

“First they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.

“Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

“Then they came for the Communists, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Communist.

“Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak out for me.”

Niemoller was arrested in 1937 and sent to Sachsenhausen and Dachau concentration camps for “not being enthusiastic enough about the Nazi movement.” He was eventually liberated by the Fifth U.S. Army on May 5, 1945. He died in 1984 in Wiesbaden, Germany.

Do I regret the remarks I made about Herman Cain? I do not. Anyone who won’t speak out for those unjustly despised is despicable.

You want to live in a country that has a litmus test for Muslims? You want to live in a country that demands loyalty oaths from Muslims?

Fine. Today, it will be the Muslims. Tomorrow, it will be you.

How badly do these candidates want to be president? Badly enough to shred the Constitution to get the job? No job is worth that, not even president.

They should be ashamed of themselves. I certainly am ashamed of them.

Dear Dr. Politics: I notice you are now on Twitter under the name @politicoroger. Don’t you find that Twitter is divorced from reality?

Reply: Twitter is reality. Everything else is an illusion.

Roger Simon is POLITICO’s chief political columnist.

Muslim hearings recall my life in internment camp

Posted in Anti-Loons with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 16, 2011 by loonwatch
The Japanese-American Mochida family await relocation to a an internment camp in this photo taken by Dorothea Lange.

Muslim hearings recall my life in internment camp

Editor’s note: Rep. Michael Honda, D-California, is senior Democratic whip and a member of House Budget and Appropriations Committees.

(CNN) — Who would have thought that my early childhood experience in a Japanese-American internment camp during World War II would offer such useful insight, 65 years later, in determining the direction America is headed? In reflecting on this week’s second round of Muslim radicalization hearings, planned by New York Rep. Peter King, I feel as if a mirror is being held up to my life, giving value to lessons learned as a child.

Make no mistake. Growing up in internment Camp Amache in Colorado was no joy ride — just look at the pictures. We were treated like cattle in those camps. Never mind that we were born in America. Never mind that we were patriotic Americans and law-abiding citizens. Never mind that we were constructively contributing to the American economy. Despite all this, hundreds of thousands of Americans suddenly became the enemy at the height of the war, with no cause, no crime, and no constitutional protection.

We look back, as a nation, and we know this was wrong. We look back and know that this was a result of “race prejudice, war hysteria and a failure of political leadership.” We look back and know that an entire ethnicity was said to be, and ultimately considered, the enemy. We know that internment happened because few in Washington were brave enough to say “no.”

We know all this, and yet our country is now, within my lifetime, repeating the same mistakes from our past. The interned 4-year-old in me is crying out for a course correction so that we do not do to others what we did unjustly to countless Japanese-Americans.

 

Camp Amache, Colorado, where Rep. Honda and his family were sent.

This time, instead of creating an ethnic enemy, Rep. King is creating a religious enemy. Because of prejudice, war hysteria and a failure of Republican leadership, King is targeting the entire Muslim-American community. Similar to my experience, they are become increasingly marginalized and isolated by our policies.

Never mind that many were born in America and have no allegiance to their ancestors’ native homeland. Never mind that they are patriotic Americans and law-abiding citizens. Never mind that they are constructively contributing to the American economy. Regardless of all this, millions of Americans have become the new enemy, with no cause and no crime.

There is no question that a congressional hearing, which targets an entire religion, is morally and strategically wrong-headed. First, it is un-American. This is not the America that I know and have helped build as a lifelong public servant. The America that I know has always provided refuge for those fleeing persecution, from early settlers to recent refugees. The America that I know does not hate and discriminate based on race, religion or creed.

Rep. Michael Honda

Second, it is counterproductive. King is undermining his own objective. In hosting these hearings, King, as chair of the House Homeland Security Committee, has declared, erroneously, that the Muslim-American community does not partner actively enough to prevent acts of violence — or in the case of prisons, extremism. Despite the offensive and fallacious nature of King’s concern, given extensive evidence that contradicts his claim, the Homeland Security chairman’s strategy makes future partnerships unpalatable.

Michael Honda on the day his family was released.

In one fell swoop of his discriminatory brush, King, in his apparent attempt to root out radicalization, marginalizes an entire American minority group, making enemies of them all. To add insult to injury, King has quipped (again, speciously) that America has too many mosques and that extremists run 80 percent of them. We can only hope that Rep. King does not completely undermine all the goodwill established across this country between Muslim Americans and law enforcement officials. You can be certain that few will want to work with King going forward.

Don’t get me wrong. I support the Homeland Security Committee examining “radicalization” in this country, and in our prisons, provided it is a comprehensive review, not a discriminatory one that targets only one subgroup of America. I support the committee examining “violent extremism” in this country, including an examination of militias and the 30,000-plus gun-related deaths that happen each year. I support a committee chair that is keen to keep our homeland secure.

This is not the case with King. These hearings do little to keep our country secure and do plenty to increase prejudice, discrimination and hate. I thought we learned a lesson or two from my internment camp experience in Colorado. I hope I am not proven wrong.

The opinions in this commentary are solely those of Michael Honda.

Amy Sullivan: The sharia myth sweeps America

Posted in Loon Politics, Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , , on June 14, 2011 by loonwatch

The boogey monster of a Sharia’ takeover has been sweeping America. Here is a newsflash: Sharia’ law will never replace the Constitution.

Column: The sharia myth sweeps America

by Amy Sullivan (USA Today)

If you are not vitally concerned about the possibility of radical Muslims infiltrating the U.S. government and establishing a Taliban-style theocracy, then you are not a candidate for the GOP presidential nomination. In addition to talking about tax policy and Afghanistan, Republican candidates have also felt the need to speak out against the menace of “sharia.”

Former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum refers to sharia as “an existential threat” to the United States. Pizza magnate Herman Cain declared in March that he would not appoint a Muslim to a Cabinet position or judgeship because “there is this attempt to gradually ease sharia law and the Muslim faith into our government. It does not belong in our government.”

The generally measured campaign of former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty leapt into panic mode over reports that during his governorship, a Minnesota agency had created a sharia-compliant mortgage program to help Muslim homebuyers. “As soon as Gov. Pawlenty became aware of the issue,” spokesman Alex Conant assured reporters, “he personally ordered it shut down.”

Former House speaker Newt Gingrich has been perhaps the most focused on the sharia threat. “We should have a federal law that says under no circumstances in any jurisdiction in the United States will sharia be used,” Gingrich announced at last fall’s Values Voters Summit. He also called for the removal of Supreme Court justices (a lifetime appointment) if they disagreed.

Gingrich’s call for a federal law banning sharia has gone unheeded so far. But at the local level, nearly two dozen states have introduced or passed laws in the past two years to ban the use of sharia in court cases.

Despite all of the activity to monitor and restrict sharia, however, there remains a great deal of confusion about what it actually is. It’s worth taking a look at some facts to understand why an Islamic code has become such a watchword in the 2012 presidential campaign.

What is sharia?

More than a specific set of laws, sharia is a process through which Muslim scholars and jurists determine God’s will and moral guidance as they apply to every aspect of a Muslim’s life. They study the Quran, as well as the conduct and sayings of the Prophet Mohammed, and sometimes try to arrive at consensus about Islamic law. But different jurists can arrive at very different interpretations of sharia, and it has changed over the centuries.

Importantly, unlike the U.S. Constitution or the Ten Commandments, there is no one document that outlines universally agreed upon sharia.

Then how do Muslim countries use sharia for their systems of justice?

There are indeed some violent and extreme interpretations of sharia. That is what the Taliban used to rule Afghanistan. In other countries, sharia may be primarily used to govern contracts and other agreements. And in a country like Turkey, which is majority Muslim, the national legal system is secular, although individual Muslims may follow sharia in their personal religious observances such as prayer and fasting. In general, to say that a person follows sharia is to say that she is a practicing Muslim.

How and when is it used in U.S. courts?

Sharia is sometimes consulted in civil cases with Muslim litigants who may request a Muslim arbitrator. These may involve issues of marriage contracts or commercial agreements, or probating an Islamic will. They are no different than the practice of judges allowing orthodox Jews to resolve some matters in Jewish courts, also known as beth din.

U.S. courts also regularly interpret foreign law in commercial disputes between two litigants from different countries, or custody agreements brokered in another country. In those cases, Islamic law is treated like any other foreign law or Catholic canon law.

What about extreme punishments like stoning or beheading?

U.S. judges may decide to consider foreign law or religious codes like sharia, but that doesn’t mean those laws override the Constitution. We have a criminal justice system that no outside law can supersede. Additionally, judges consider foreign laws only if they choose to — they can always refuse to recognize a foreign law.

So if sharia is consulted only in certain cases and only at the discretion of the court, why has it become such a high priority for states and GOP candidates? One answer is that sharia opponents believe they need to act not to prevent the way Islamic law is currently used in the U.S. but to prevent a coming takeover by Muslim extremists. The sponsor of an Oklahoma measure banning sharia approved by voters last fall described it as “a pre-emptive strike.” Others, like the conservative Center for Security Policy, assert that all Muslims are bound to work to establish an Islamic state in the U.S.

But if that was true — and the very allegation labels every Muslim in America a national security threat — the creeping Islamic theocracy movement is creeping very slowly. Muslims first moved to the Detroit suburb of Dearborn, for example, nearly a century ago to work in Henry Ford‘s factories. For most of the past 100 years, Dearborn has been home to the largest community of Arabs in the U.S. And yet after five or six generations, Dearborn’s Muslims have not sought to see the city run in accordance with sharia. Bars and the occasional strip clubs dot the town’s avenues, and a pork sausage factory is located next to the city’s first mosque.

Maybe Dearborn’s Muslims are just running a very drawn-out head fake on the country. It’s hard to avoid the more likely conclusion, however, that politicians who cry “Sharia!” are engaging in one of the oldest and least-proud political traditions — xenophobic demagoguery. One of the easiest ways to spot its use is when politicians carelessly throw around a word simply because it scares some voters.

Take Gerald Allen, the Alabama state senator who was moved by the danger posed by sharia to sponsor a bill banning it — but who, when asked for a definition, could not say what sharia was. “I don’t have my file in front of me,” he told reporters. “I wish I could answer you better.” In Tennessee, lawmakers sought to make following sharia a felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison — until they learned that their effort would essentially make it illegal to be Muslim in their state.

During last year’s Senate race in Nevada, GOP candidate Sharon Angle blithely asserted that Dearborn, as well as a small town in Texas, currently operate under sharia law. And Minnesota congresswoman Michele Bachmann used the occasion of Osama bin Laden’s death to tie the terrorist mastermind to the word: “It is my hope that this is the beginning of the end of Sharia-compliant terrorism.”

The anti-communist Red Scare of the 1950s made broad use of guilt by innuendo and warnings about shadowy conspiracies. If GOP candidates insist they are not doing the same thing to ordinary Muslims, they can prove it by explaining what they believe sharia is and whether they’re prepared to ban the consideration of all religious codes from civil arbitration. Anything less is simply fear mongering.

Amy Sullivan is a contributing writer at Time and author of The Party Faithful: How and Why Democrats Are Closing the God Gap.

The Young Conservative’s Hip Hop Guide to Muslims (Satire)

Posted in Anti-Loons with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 2, 2011 by loonwatch

Young Con is doing his thang. Check out the video and the facts below.

The Young Conservative’s Hip Hop Guide to Muslims (Satire)

The Young Conservative’s Hip Hop Guide to Muslims is social commentary through satire on the gross, yet common misconceptions perpetuated about Muslim people. Cutaways to competing facts are provided to help fight ignorance and intolerance.

Sources:

Statistic in Open – 3 of 4 people Republicans believe “Islam teaches hate”

Step 1 – Ethnicity/Demographics of Muslims

  • 60% Asian
  • 20% Arab
  • 17% Subsaharan-African

Step 2 – FBI Terrorism Report – Chronological Summary of Terrorist Incidents in the United States 1980-2005

Step 3 – “Islam is Violence”

  • George W. Bush: “Islam is Peace
  • Chapter 5, verse 32 – “We ordained for the Children of Israel that if any one slew a person — unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land — it would be as if he slew the whole people; and if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people.”

Step 6 – “They hate women” – 4 of 5 most populous Muslim-majority nations have elected female heads-of-state

  • Indonesia – Megawati Sukarnoputri
  • Pakistan – Benazir Bhutto
  • Bangladesh – Khaleda Zia & Sheikh Hasina
  • Turkey – Tansu Ciller

Step 7 – FDR Inaugural Speech – March 4, 1933

  • “The only thing we have to fear is Muslims“
  • “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself”

Step 8 – Jesus in the Quran, “The Messiah”

Defector admits to WMD lies that triggered Iraq war

Posted in Loon Politics, Loon Violence with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on February 16, 2011 by loonwatch

Rafid Ahmed Alwan al-Janabi lied about WMD’s. After millions of deaths and injuries and a fractured country he is still proud of what he did. He shows no remorse, but the fact is that if Rafid al-Janabi didn’t exist, Cheney and gang would find another Rafid. I wonder if Lieberman is still going to claim their were WMD’s in Iraq?

Defector admits to WMD lies that triggered Iraq war

(Guardian)

The defector who convinced the White House that Iraq had a secret biological weapons programme has admitted for the first time that he lied about his story, then watched in shock as it was used to justify the war.

Rafid Ahmed Alwan al-Janabi, codenamed Curveball by German and American intelligence officials who dealt with his claims, has told the Guardian that he fabricated tales of mobile bioweapons trucks and clandestine factories in an attempt to bring down the Saddam Hussein regime, from which he had fled in 1995.

“Maybe I was right, maybe I was not right,” he said. “They gave me this chance. I had the chance to fabricate something to topple the regime. I and my sons are proud of that and we are proud that we were the reason to give Iraq the margin of democracy.”

The admission comes just after the eighth anniversary of Colin Powell’s speech to the United Nations in which the then-US secretary of state relied heavily on lies that Janabi had told the German secret service, the BND. It also follows the release of former defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s memoirs, in which he admitted Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction programme.

The careers of both men were seriously damaged by their use of Janabi’s claims, which he now says could have been – and were – discredited well before Powell’s landmark speech to the UN on 5 February 2003.

The former CIA chief in Europe Tyler Drumheller describes Janabi’s admission as “fascinating”, and said the emergence of the truth “makes me feel better”. “I think there are still a number of people who still thought there was something in that. Even now,” said Drumheller.

In the only other at length interview Janabi has given he denied all knowledge of his supposed role in helping the US build a case for invading Saddam’s Iraq.

In a series of meetings with the Guardian in Germany where he has been granted asylum, he said he had told a German official, who he identified as Dr Paul, about mobile bioweapons trucks throughout 2000. He said the BND had identified him as a Baghdad-trained chemical engineer and approached him shortly after 13 March of that year, looking for inside information about Saddam’s Iraq.

“I had a problem with the Saddam regime,” he said. “I wanted to get rid of him and now I had this chance.”

He portrays the BND as gullible and so eager to tease details from him that they gave him a Perry’s Chemical Engineering Handbook to help communicate. He still has the book in his small, rented flat in Karlsruhe, south-west Germany.

“They were asking me about pumps for filtration, how to make detergent after the reaction,” he said. “Any engineer who studied in this field can explain or answer any question they asked.”

Janabi claimed he was first exposed as a liar as early as mid-2000, when the BND travelled to a Gulf city, believed to be Dubai, to speak with his former boss at the Military Industries Commission in Iraq, Dr Bassil Latif.

The Guardian has learned separately that British intelligence officials were at that meeting, investigating a claim made by Janabi that Latif’s son, who was studying in Britain, was procuring weapons for Saddam.

That claim was proven false, and Latif strongly denied Janabi’s claim of mobile bioweapons trucks and another allegation that 12 people had died during an accident at a secret bioweapons facility in south-east Baghdad.

The German officials returned to confront him with Latif’s version. “He says, ‘There are no trucks,’ and I say, ‘OK, when [Latif says] there no trucks then [there are none],’” Janabi recalled.

He said the BND did not contact him again until the end of May 2002. But he said it soon became clear that he was still being taken seriously.

He claimed the officials gave him an incentive to speak by implying that his then pregnant Moroccan-born wife may not be able to travel from Spain to join him in Germany if he did not co-operate with them. “He says, you work with us or your wife and child go to Morocco.”

The meetings continued throughout 2002 and it became apparent to Janabi that a case for war was being constructed. He said he was not asked again about the bioweapons trucks until a month before Powell’s speech.

After the speech, Janabi said he called his handler at the BND and accused the secret service of breaking an agreement that they would not share anything he had told them with another country. He said he was told not to speak and placed in confinement for around 90 days.

With the US now leaving Iraq, Janabi said he was comfortable with what he did, despite the chaos of the past eight years and the civilian death toll in Iraq, which stands at more than 100,000.

“I tell you something when I hear anybody – not just in Iraq but in any war – [is] killed, I am very sad. But give me another solution. Can you give me another solution?

“Believe me, there was no other way to bring about freedom to Iraq. There were no other possibilities.”

Egypt and Tunisia have just proven you wrong Rafid, there is another way, peaceful and sustained protests that break the fear barrier and overwhelm the dictators.