Obama, in Cairo:
As a student of history, I also know civilization’s debt to Islam. It was Islam – at places like Al-Azhar University – that carried the light of learning through so many centuries, paving the way for Europe’s Renaissance and Enlightenment. It was innovation in Muslim communities that developed the order of algebra; our magnetic compass and tools of navigation; our mastery of pens and printing; our understanding of how disease spreads and how it can be healed. Islamic culture has given us majestic arches and soaring spires; timeless poetry and cherished music; elegant calligraphy and places of peaceful contemplation.
So far, so good (though I’ve never seen much evidence that he’s really a “student of history”). But this next seems like a stretch:
And throughout history, Islam has demonstrated through words and deeds the possibilities of religious tolerance and racial equality.
Note that he provides no examples of this, and the world abounds with counterexamples to the proposition. For example, I always find it either amusing or appalling that African-Americans who embrace the religion don’t understand that it was Arab traders (Muslims) who sold their ancestors into slavery to the Europeans.
This next bit is even more amazing, though:
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.
Now, when I see the words “Islam has always been a part of America’s story,” and “Tripoli,” the Treaty of Tripoli is not the first thing that comes to mind. What comes to mind is the Marine Corps anthem, which talks about “the shores of Tripoli.” Because that was the first foreign war in which we engaged after gaining our independence and becoming a constitutional republic — a war against Muslims resulting from their continual piracy and kidnapping of American sailors. And of course, they didn’t restrict their kidnapping to ships at sea — many people (and many women and children) were plucked from the shores of Europe and the British Isles, and sold into slavery. By Muslims. They were equal-opportunity slavers, enslaving both blacks and whites. Perhaps this is what Obama meant by their promotion of “racial equality.”
Anyway, anyone familiar with the actual history of relations between the young United States and the Barbary Pirates would be astonished to read the above paragraph coming from a supposed “student of history.”
Now, I’m not saying that he should have peeled that particular scab off the old wound– just that it’s bizarre to talk about our early relations with Islam without mentioning it. It would have been better to simply avoid discussing that particular period in history at all.
I guess that this must be a result of studying history in the US public school system. Maybe he should have gotten vouchers.
And of course, there is nothing particularly Islamic about wearing a “hijab.” It’s a recent fashion (and part of the religion’s long-time subjugation of women). I hope that he doesn’t plan to have the US government defend the right to cover the face for driver’s license photos, or to not require Muslim nurses to wash their hands before and during surgery, as has occurred in the UK.
What is annoying about this speech (even ignoring the utter whitewashing of the history of Islam), is that he’s once again, or still (though more subtly this time) running against George Bush, with the implication that Bush was at war with Islam, regardless of the painstaking politically correct steps he took to avoid that impression, to the point of having the FBI coordinate and cooperate with the terrorist-sponsoring organization, CAIR. This speech was unnecessary, at least as far as healing our relations with Islam or the world. But it will help reinforce domestically the false history from this “student of history” that the war (when they’re willing to admit that we are at war) is all Bush’s fault.
I’ll probably talk about the section on Israel and the “Palestinians” in another post, when I find time.
[Update a while later]
It’s worth noting, as it is in comments, that the Treaty of Tripoli was one of several, and basically a negotiation of how much tribute should be paid by the US to the Barbary Coast for a guarantee of unhindered passage by American ships through the Mediterranean and near Atlantic, after the loss of protection by first the British and later the French navies. It was basically a formalized extortion racket, which eventually (and it didn’t take long) broke down and resulted in the young US raising a Navy and engaging in the Barbary Wars, to avoid further tribute. Again, it seems a tender issue to raise in a speech addressed to Muslims.
[Update early afternoon]
Andy McCarthy has similar thoughts.
[Update a couple minutes later]
Platitudes and naivete. Robert Spencer dissects. Of course “platitudes and naivete” is a pretty good description of any Obama speech, so it doesn’t really distinguish this one.