Have you burned your Koran today?

Or…What Would Your Founding Fathers Say?

It has been over a year since I posted anything in this blog.  The biggest reason is that upon returning to work, I found I had less time to ponder the “big issues” in life, such as why there are so few Johnny Cash tribute bands.   Well…it was that and the fact that it really cut into my efforts to set the world record on 

Bejeweled Blitz.  However, the recent “Koran Burning” being organized by Terry Jones in Gainesville, FL has lit a small fire within me – pardon the pun. 

I am not going to debate whether the media’s response to Mr. Jones’ event was overblown – not every lunatic with a misguided mission deserves coverage.  To steal a quote attributed to Jim Rohn – if you take a bunch of idiots and motivate them, you end up with a bunch of motivated idiots.‎

This current situation, combined with the recent legislative efforts in Arizona requiring immigrants to carry identification documents at all times, and the ongoing debate about whether a mosque should be built near Ground Zero, are examples of everything wrong in America. 

Perhaps rather than burning books – and increasing the level or rhetoric – might I suggest that sometime over the next two weeks (or even better on 9/11 itself) make an effort to locate your local Islamic house of worship.  Stop by.  Introduce yourself.  Become educated. 

I take issue with the talking heads on FOX News and elsewhere that seem to have the ability to channel the thoughts of our “founding fathers”.  As it relates specifically to the Islamic faith and our founding fathers, here are some interesting facts – with hyperlinks as available

Thomas Jefferson was a staunch proponent of religious freedom in America including those of Muslims.  He was also responsible for bringing the concept of “Separation of Church and State” into the public domain in a letter to the Danbury Baptists on January 1, 1802.  In his writings on the religious freedom movement in Virginia, Jefferson explicitly mentioned Muslims. His autobiography includes the following “[When] the [Virginia] bill for establishing religious freedom… was finally passed… a singular proposition proved that its protection of opinion was meant to be universal. Where the preamble declares that coercion is a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, an amendment was proposed, by inserting the word ‘Jesus Christ,’ so that it should read ‘a departure from the plan of Jesus Christ, the holy author of our religion.’ The proposed insertion was widely rejected, indicating that the groups included in the Bill’s protection should include “the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mahometan, the Hindoo and infidel of every denomination.”

In 1776, John Adams published “Thoughts on Government” in which he praises the Islamic prophet Mahomet (Mohammed) as a “sober inquirer after truth” alongside Confucius, Zoroaster, Socrates, and other “pagan and Christian” thinkers.

In 1776, On June 7 Richard Henry Lee, made a resolution in the Second Congressional Congress know known as Lee’s Resolution, which urged that the American colonies declare independence. “True freedom,” Lee asserted, “embraces the Mahomitan and the Gentoo (Hindu) as well as the Christian religion.”

In 1777, Morocco – a predominantly Muslim nation- was the first country to formally recognize and seek diplomatic relations with a tiny former British colony called “The United States of America”.

In 1785, George Washington stated a willingness to hire “Mahometans,” as well as people of any nation or religion, to work on his private estate at Mount Vernon if they were “good workmen.”

In 1790, The South Carolina legislative body granted special status to the subjects of Sultan of Morocco, Mohammed ben Abdallah through passage of The Moors Sundry Act. It recognized Moors as `white` people with Jury duty as a privilege. {As an aside, I cannot reference the Moors without paying tribute to George Costanza and his prowess at Trivial Pursuit – “Alright bubble boy, who invaded Spain in the 8th Century?” “I’m so sorry it’s the Moops.”

In 1791, Benjamin Franklin in his autobiography wrote that he “did not disapprove” of a meeting place in Pennsylvania, designed to accommodate preachers of all religions. Noting “even if the Mufti of Constantinople were to send a missionary to preach Mohammedanism to us, he would find a pulpit at his service.”

In 1796, then President John Adams signed The Treaty of Peace and Friendship in Tripoli declaring the United States had no “character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen“.

So….If this review of some of the historic figures in US History isn’t proof that the Founding Fathers would take issue with a Koran burning ceremony, perhaps the words of a modern day champion of religious freedom in the United States will get the point across.  Of course, I am referring to George W. Bush.  Ahead of hosting a Whitehouse iftar celebration President Bush said the Islamic religion “is a great religion that preaches peace,” and that Americans are free “to worship any way they see fit….” stating his own belief that the global community, regardless of individual faiths, “prays to the same God

The following are President Bush’s complete remarks made at the event.

Thank you all for coming. Please be seated. Ramadan Mubarak. Laura and I are pleased to have you here for our seventh Iftaar dinner. Tonight we celebrate traditions of Islamic faith, which brings hope and comfort to more than a billion people. For Muslims around the world, the holy month of Ramadan is a special time of prayer and fasting. It is a time for charity and service to those less fortunate.  It’s a time to celebrate Islam’s learned and vibrant culture, which has enriched civilization for centuries.

Ramadan is also a good time for Americans of all faiths to reflect on the values we hold in common — including love of family, gratitude to the Almighty, devotion to community, and a commitment to religious liberty. The freedom of worship is central to the American character. It’s the first protection in the Bill of Rights. It holds together the fabric of American society — supporting every individual’s right to practice his or her beliefs without fear.

Today, our world is at war with violent extremists who seek to tear the fabric of our society — and stop the advance of freedom in Muslim societies around the world. They attack holy sites, destroy mosques and minarets, and kill innocent men, women and children — including Muslims who do not share their radical views. They believe that by spreading chaos and violence they can frustrate the desire of Muslims to live in freedom and peace. We say to them, you don’t represent Muslims, you do not represent Islam — and you will not succeed.

America is standing with mainstream citizens across the broader Middle East. We stand with nearly 12 million Iraqis who voted for a democratic future for their children. We’re standing with Afghan people, as they defend their young democracy against the Taliban and al Qaeda. We’re standing with the Lebanese people, who raised the banner of a Cedar Revolution to reclaim their freedom and independence. We’re standing with all who seek the blessings of liberty — and the peace that freedom brings.

Americans have a history of standing with Muslims facing suffering and hardship — and it’s a proud history. Our country defended Muslims in Bosnia and Kosovo after the breakup of Yugoslavia. We supported Kuwait after it was invaded by Saddam Hussein. Americans came to the aid of victims of devastating earthquakes in Pakistan, India, and Iran. Americans responded with urgency and compassion to the wreckage of the tsunami in Indonesia and Sri Lanka and Thailand. We’re rallying the world to confront the genocide in Sudan, and deliver humanitarian aid for those in dire need. And we support the establishment of a Palestinian democracy to live side by side with Israel in peace.

As you break your Ramadan fast at this Iftaar dinner, let us renew our faith in the universality of freedom. Let us celebrate the millions of Muslims that we are proud to call American citizens. And let us honor the many Muslim nations that America is proud to call friends.


2 Responses

  1. Hi Pat, While I certainly agree Folsom Prison Blues is perhaps one of the best songs in a country music repertoire, I can’t really agree with your assertions re: AZ immigration issues, and ground zero mosques.

    The koran burning… I think we can agree is stupid and the press has given far more attention to it than it deserves.

    I personally liken that to that whack-job “church” in Kansas (I think) comprised mostly of one ultra-fundamentalist -supposedly Christian- family that protests outside soldiers funerals and at abortion clinics. Sick, but our First Amendment allows such nonesense.

    The AZ law is more of the same issue – the media and our President, making more of an issue out of something that is a non-issue. The fact that our southern states bordering Mexico are being overrun by ILLEGAL immigrants is criminal. The Federal Gov’t is supposed to prevent this and legislators have forced the people on the ground to be virtually impudent. The AZ law only reinforces existing laws at the Federal level that the Bush and Obama administrations have ignored. And why shouldn’t illegal aliens be forced to have identification? Have you been stopped for speeding lately? What are you asked for? IDENTIFICATION. Law enforcement officials must be able to identify those they stop/apprehend and be reasonably sure the identification is authentic. Why is this bad? You can’t write a check at WalMart without showing them your license???? White, black, red, pink or purple. Makes no difference. This is not a racsim issue this is a safety issue.

    While you performed a commendable job of citing our Founding Fathers for your blog, I’d suggest you research “Operation Wetback.” (A term that is clearly derogatory, and one that I am uncomfortable saying, yet that is the name of a program conducted by our Federal Gov’t in the 1950’s – and perhaps should be conducted again.)

    The United States of America is a great nation (IMO the greatest nation ever to exist) but first and foremost we are a nation of laws and I don’t understand how all U.S. citizens obey our laws, but it’s OK for people from another country -be it Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Italy, Kenya, England, France et al- to come to this country and the very FIRST thing they do is break our laws, and we are supposed to welcome them with open arms? How is that “right” and what message does that send to the “chumps” who obey the laws, file the paper work, visit our Embassies in their own countries and finally come to the U.S.? I have the privilege of working with some of these said “chumps” from Kenya, the Dominican Republic and Mexico and this may come as a surprise to you, but they believe as I do that those that come to this country illegally should be rounded up and sent to their home country. While I know that is a small “sample population” I think it is relevant in the fact that there are those of us who obey laws and those of us who think laws are to be followed by “the other guy.”

    Now, onto ground zero.

    While I suspect you and I will agree Islam is an important part of the fabric that makes our Nation great, and our First Amendment freedoms allow a group of muslims to build a mosque wherever the heck they would like, (there is more than 100 mosques in NYC alone) do you even sense a hint that there is a bit of sensitivity around building an Islamic religious center (call it a cultural center – mosque- whatever you prefer) so close to such hallowed ground where so many Americans died because of Muslim-Islamic-Jihadists fundamentalism?

    I’ve likened this to building a Japanese cultural center next to the hulk of the USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor. A spot not unlike Ground Zero where Americans are still entombed in the sunken hulk of the battleship.

    Or perhaps a Nazi historical museum somewhere in Tel Aviv? Kind of makes your skin crawl when you think of it in those terms, eh? Why is ground zero different?

    It’s interesting to note that one of Islam’s most holy sites (The Dome of the Rock) was built on the remains of the Second Jewish Temple – one of Judaism’s holiest sites- after Israel was conquered by Muslims.

    While I hope and pray that Islamic leaders would not be attempting to send the same kind of message today that they sent to Judea in the 600’s A.D. it’s difficult not to see the correlation.

    All the while too many Americans, like yourself perhaps, are too concerned with political correctness instead of what is viscerally right and wrong.

    And why is this Iman pushing for this location?

    Why not a few blocks farther down the street?

    Or how about a couple of $500 million Christian “cultural centers” and missionary universities in Mecca and Medina? It sounds absurd doesn’t it? While is a mosque at ground zero any less absurd?


    • I agree, this is one of the best countries in the world. Specifically because it allows people to have different views on a subject.
      I guess I touched a nerve in regards to my post. Which I guess was the purpose. My purpose was more to indicate that we need to be more tolerant of others religions.

      I do have a few follow up questions to your post. I don’t think the analogy of Pearl Harbor and Ground Zero makes sense. In the case of Pearl Harbor- it was a foreign sovereign nation that cowardly attacked us without declaring war. The activities of 9/11 were orchestrated under the leadership of a known terrorist. My issue is that people seem to need to equate being muslim/islamic with being a terrorist. It is just not true.

      As for the issue on Arizona law. Is it just the fact that immigrants are coming to the US via our land border with Mexico? Am I to assume that every person who comes into the country via the Canadian border does so legally? Can you explain why we would have a policy like they do in AZ while at the same time having one that states that if you are coming from Cuba, as long as you get one foot on soil before someone gets you you’re “safe” – perhaps because they are good at baseball?
      I also think there is a difference between being asked for ID at Walmart when trying to transact business and being asked for identification. Maybe we could institute a policy that would make it VERY easy for authorities to know if someone should be here. Perhaps AZ could pass a law requiring every Mexican who is here legally wear a patch in the shape of a yellow sombrero on their clothing and also on their cars and houses?

      I think we should also make sure that we erect some large visible structure so that people coming into the US understand how we feel. I’m guessing it wouldn’t read as follows. “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

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