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ALEXANDER HAMILTON BUST AT SITE OF FAMED DUEL.

In recent weeks, people the world over have heard a great deal about divisions and conflict between Muslim communities and America. Yet looking more deeply at American history shows how much American tradition actually runs in the opposite direction. In today’s seemingly divisive world, I cannot help but think of the values of America’s Founding Fathers and their faith that America would always be a place that is open to people from all religious backgrounds.

Americans and Muslims worldwide shouldn’t be surprised when they see that the writings of America’s Founding Fathers reveal an open perspective and absolute acceptance of Islam and, indeed, all religions. “The bosom of America,” wrote George Washington in 1783, is “open to receive . . . the oppressed and persecuted of all nations and religions, whom we shall welcome to a participation of all our rights and privileges . . . They may be Mahometans [Muslims], Jews, or Christians of any sect, or they may be atheists.”

John Adams, who served as vice president under George Washington, called the Prophet Muhammad one of the world’s “sober inquirers of truth.” Echoing Washington, he stated in 1797 that the U.S. government “has in itself no character or enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility of [Muslims].” Benjamin Franklin helped fund the construction of a religious temple in Philadelphia that would be open to all faiths, “so that even if the Mufti of Constantinople were to send a missionary to preach [Islam] to us, he would find a pulpit at his service.”

In a document on religious freedom that was written for the Virginian colonial legislature in 1777, Thomas Jefferson stated that “the Jew, the Gentile, the Christian, and the [Muslim], the Hindoo [Hindu], and infidel of every denomination” are welcome. Today, a statue of Jefferson stands at the University of Virginia. He is holding a tablet that reads, “Religious Freedom, 1786,” below which is inscribed Allah, alongside God, Jehovah and Brahma.

“…some Americans have lost sight of fundamental components of American identity such as tolerance, compassion and openness.” – Craig Considine

It is in the egalitarian spirit of the Founding Fathers that Akbar Ahmed, former Pakistani ambassador to the U.K. and current Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies at American University, and several of his young American students traveled across the United States to explore American identity through the eyes of Muslims. Arising out of their travels was the documentary feature film Journey into America, which follows the team to over 75 cities, 100 mosques, and into the homes, schools and places of worship of Americans of all backgrounds. The film portrays how many Muslim Americans have restored the faith of the Founding Fathers, but it also goes beyond this to document how some Americans have lost sight of fundamental components of American identity such as tolerance, compassion and openness.

An activist carries a sign in support of tolerance near the site of the proposed lower Manhattan Muslim cultural center and mosque in New York (Reuters file photo).

In my opinion, the pluralist vision of the Founding Fathers is the quintessential value which makes American identity unique among the national identities of the world. To restore their vision of America as a place where all people – regardless of religious background – can coexist, I established the initiative One Film 9/11. The goal of this project is to screen Journey into America in as many places of religious worship around the United States and the Muslim world on September 11, 2013, in the hope of demonstrating how one film can ultimately have a positive impact on relations between Muslims and non-Muslims worldwide.

For Americans and Muslims to go forward in a mutually beneficial direction, both sides must dedicate themselves to the principles expressed by the Founding Fathers. One Film 9/11 is an important step in restoring this faith and building bridges in a world desperately in need of them.

This post was originally published on Commongroundnews.org.

The views expressed in this Voices post are the author’s own and are not endorsed by Middle East Voices or Voice of America. If you have an opinion on this post, you may use our democratic commenting system below. And, if you would like to share your own reflections on events or issues about or relevant to the Middle East, we would be glad to consider them for publication. Please email us through our Contact page with a short proposal for a Voices post or send us a link to an existing post already published on your personal blog.

Craig Considine

Craig Considine is the director of Journey into America. He is currently a PhD candidate in the Department of Sociology at Trinity College Dublin. You can follow One Film 9/11 on Facebook and on www.onefilm911.wordpress.com.

16 Comments

  1. Jim Harrison

    October 30, 2012

    Thank you, Craig, for pointing out the difference between how American civilization began with a Christian foundation but lapsed into a pluralistic society, which is bound to rip itself apart. The founders in the late 18th century made an attempt at some fantasy called “neutrality.”.

    Benjamin Franklin’s helping to fund “the construction of a religious temple in Philadelphia” has given us something equivalent to the Roman Pantheon in which to herd all gods inferior to Caesar. And Thomas Jefferson’s statement “the Jew, the Gentile, the Christian, and the [Muslim], the Hindoo [Hindu], and infidel of every denomination” are now welcome has cast America into a religious nebula.

    This all fits hand-in-glove with the Article VI proclamation: “This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, SHALL BE THE SUPREME LAW OF THE LAND” [Emphasis added]. This preemptive strike paves the way for the no-religious-test clause in the last paragraph of the same Article. The implication is clear. There will be no OTHER religious (BINDING) test except an oath or affirmation to uphold the self proclaimed supreme law of the land including its auxiliaries. God’s law is thus overridden, and His name is not mentioned as the One to whom the oath or affirmation is made. In fact, the recipient is up for grabs. The subjective “who” wins the prize.

    Reply
    • Ted R. Weiland

      October 31, 2012

      Jim, great insight. Article 6's ban on Christian test oaths and Amendment 1's polytheistic freedom of religion provision opened the door for, not only the open proliferation of Islam here in America, but also for Muslims (such as Obama and Ellingson) to hold positions of leadership over Christians (in defiance of 2 Corinthians 6:14-18).

      "Although the religious test clause was overwhelmingly approved with little discussion at the Constitutional Convention, it was hotly debated in several of the States’ ratifying conventions:

      'Amos Singletary, … delegate to the Massachusetts ratifying convention, was upset at the Constitution’s not requiring men in power to be religious “and though he hoped to see Christians [in office], yet by the Constitution, a papist, or an infidel was as eligible as they.” …Henry Abbot, a delegate to the North Carolina convention, warned that “the exclusion of religious tests” was “dangerous and impolitic” and that “pagans, deists, and Mahometans might obtain offices among us [and the Senators and representatives might all be pagans].” If there is no religious test, he asked, “to whom will they [officeholders] swear support – the ancient pagan gods of Jupiter, Juno, Minerva, or Pluto?”

      "Gary DeMar declared, 'The most base pagan practices – child killing and sodomy – are now accepted in our nation’s capital as fundamental constitutional rights. Massachusetts voters have sent two acknowledged sodomites to Congress every two years. [Henry] Abbot knew what he was talking about.'"

      For documentation and much more, see Chapter 9 "Article 6: The Supreme Law of the Land" at http://www.missiontoisrael.org/biblelaw-constitutionalism-pt9.php.

      Reply
  2. John

    October 30, 2012

    It is true that the founders wanted religious liberty for all. Religious Liberty means that they wanted all religions to be left alone by the government, with each religion left to practice their faith as they see fit. The problem in our modern time is that the Muslims in America don’t want to be equal with all other religions, they want to be held above them. They want to be acknowledged as a special group. They want to have Sharia law implemented, and force all others, including all other religions, to abide by their laws. This is NOT equality and is NOT religious liberty, and goes against everything that religious liberty means.

    Reply
  3. Esther

    October 30, 2012

    That is BS, Craig Considine, you do not understand! The founders knew what we know now (heads roll) but had to keep it quiet because we have to trade along the Barbary Coast. Check out JOHN ADAMS by McCullough, he gives an insightful look at the little meeting that Adams had with the nefarious powers, and also that of the so-called “tax” (really coerced bribe) and the whole deal. Read up Craig.

    Reply
  4. Mary Wood

    October 30, 2012

    That is BS, Craig Considine, you do not understand! The founders knew what we know now (heads roll) but had to keep it quiet because we have to trade along the Barbary Coast. Check out JOHN ADAMS by McCullough, he gives an insightful look at the little meeting that Adams had with the nefarious powers, and also that of the so-called "tax" (really coerced bribe) and the whole deal. Read up Craig.

    Reply
  5. James E. Moeckel

    October 30, 2012

    Good luck with that bridge to nowhere Craig.

    Reply
  6. Kelly Kafir

    October 30, 2012

    Love how you left out G Washington's later writings about Muslims… and didn't include Adams and Jefferson's writings… in fact, Jefferson and Adams disagreed on how to deal with them. Adams was very happy to pay the jizyya tax (which was about 25% of our federal budget) just to get the Muslims to stop attacking our ships and Jefferson refused and went to war with them until they stopped attacking our ships in the Mediteranian in (every hear of the Barbary wars? Who do you think the Barbary pirates were? and the motto – "Millions for defense but not a penny for tribute!" ) This is why Jefferson had a Qur'an – and you should read the introduction! Jefferson calls Islam absurd!

    Read the letter from Jefferson and Adams to Washington when they were trying to figure out why their ships were being attacked unprovoked… they couldn't believe that there was such an evil "holy book" that demanded attacks on innocent people unprovoked! (but of course, we know that "innocent" is relative in Islam – no on who reject Allah and Islam is innocent – making us all kuffar and open game!)

    Reply
  7. Guest

    October 30, 2012

    While the founding fathers were tolerant of all religions, they were also adamant about treason. So much so that they instituted the punishment of death for it! So it would be false to say that they had an “absolute acceptance” of all relgions if one were found to be treasonous.

    Reply
    • Public Citizen

      October 30, 2012

      Well stated. In addition I think it would be a fair statement that the Founding Fathers did not have the understanding of Muslims [the followers of the faith of Mohammed] or of Islam [the political entity wearing a false beard of religion to disguise its Imperialistic aspirations] that we posses today.

      Jefferson probably had the best understanding as he had to deal with the problem of the Barbary Coast Pirates [the Corsairs - all Muslims], going so far as to acquire a translation of the Koran so that he could study the seminal document for their beliefs and teachings. You will note the sparsity of Jefferson’s thoughts in the article.

      Reply
  8. Vin Ienco

    October 30, 2012

    good for you craig – 2200 mosques and counting, terorrist after terrorist arrested and we have yet another, uneducated apologist of islam.

    Reply

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