What would Americaís Founding Fathers say about Islam?

by Craig Considine
23 October 2012
Print
Email
Dublin - 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 todayís 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 US government "has in itself no character or enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity 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.

It is in the egalitarian spirit of the Founding Fathers that Akbar Ahmed, former Pakistani ambassador to the UK and current Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies at American University, and several of his young American students travelled 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.

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 11 September, 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.

###

* Craig Considine is the director of Journey into America. He is currently a Ph.D. 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. This article was written for the Common Ground News Service (CGNews).

Source: Common Ground News Service (CGNews), 23 October 2012, www.commongroundnews.org
Copyright permission is granted for publication.
 
 
 
 
VIDEO OF THE WEEK
Advice from El-Hibri Peace Education Prize winner

In this video, the Common Ground News Service (CGNews) sat down with this year’s El-Hibri Peace Education Prize recipient Dr Betty Reardon and her friend Cora Weiss, President of the Hague Appeal for Peace, to ask what the average person can do, and seek their advice for the next generation of peacebuilders.  
 
 
 
 
"You have my permission [to run my articles]. Always delighted with the news service."

- John Esposito, University Professor and founding Director of the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim - Christian Understanding at Georgetown University
 
 
 

It takes 200+ hours a week to produce CGNews. We rely on readers like you to make it happen. If you find our stories informative or inspiring, help us share these underreported perspectives with audiences around the world.

Monthly:

Donate:

Or, support us with a one-time donation.

 
 
 
OTHER ARTICLES IN EDITION
Malala Yousafzai and the other half of Muslim history
Israeli and Palestinian go from enemies to brothers
The uprising of women in the Arab world
Democracy at the heart of Islamic revival
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
200+
 
 
# of hours per week to create one edition
 
 
8
 
 
# of editors in 6 countries around the world
 
 
30,000
 
 
# of subscribers
 
 
30
 
 
Average # of reprints per article
 
 
4,800
 
 
# of media outlets that have reprinted our articles
 
 
37,307
 
 
# of republished articles since inception
 
 
6
 
 
# of languages CG articles are distributed in
 
 
2000+
 
 
# of writers since inception
 
 
'

 

Other articles in this edition

Malala Yousafzai and the other half of Muslim history by Asma Afsaruddin
Israeli and Palestinian go from enemies to brothers by Shelley Hermon
The uprising of women in the Arab world by Nada Akl
Democracy at the heart of Islamic revival by Muqtedar Khan