Last Sunday, in his message congratulating Muslims on Eid al-Fitr, the holiday marking the end of the fasting month of Ramadan, Barack Obama wrote: “Eid also reminds us of the many achievements and contributions of Muslim Americans to building the very fabric of our nation and strengthening the core of our democracy.” That’s right: he said “many achievements and contributions.” I could only think of five. Maybe you will be able to think of some more.
5. Getting us here in the first place`
This one predates the United States as a nation, but without it, the United States would not exist. Every schoolchild knows, or used to know, that in 1492 Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue and discovered America while searching for a new, westward sea route to Asia. But why was he searching for a new route to Asia? Because the fall of Constantinople to the Muslims in 1453 closed the trade routes to the East. This was devastating for European tradesmen, who had until then traveled to Asia for spices and other goods by land. Columbus’s voyage was trying to ease the plight of these merchants by bypassing the Muslims altogether and making it possible for Europeans to reach India by sea.
So the bellicosity and intransigence of Islam ultimately opened the Americas for Europe – and made the United States possible.
Slavery is condoned in the Qur’an as well as the Bible, and has been taken for granted throughout Islamic history, as it was in the West until the advent of the great abolitionist movements in the U.S. and Britain. The opening of the transatlantic slave trade provided Muslim slave dealers in Africa with a lucrative new market – one that they cheerfully and energetically exploited.
One consequence of this has been claims by the Hamas-linked Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and other Islamic advocacy groups in the U.S. that the first Muslims in the U.S. were slaves imported from Africa. This, of course, feeds the sense of victimhood that CAIR so assiduously cultivates for the political power that it offers, but it cuts in the other direction as well: not only the slaves, but the slave traders who sold them to Europeans and Americans who brought them to the New World were Muslims, operating in accord with the sanction of slavery given by Muhammad and the Qur’an.
Arguably, then, if it weren’t for the Islamic slave industry on the African continent, there would have been no slavery in the New World, and none of the attendant national traumas that reverberate down to this day. This means, of course, that one way that Muslims have contributed to building the very fabric of our nation is by setting in motion the chain of events that led to ongoing racial tensions in the U.S., and ultimately to the election to the presidency of Barack Obama.
3. The Marines
“From the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli…” The line from the Marines’ hymn commemorates the Marines’ actions during the First Barbary War (1801-1805), the first war the United States fought against Islamic jihadists. The war came about because President Thomas Jefferson refused to accede to the Barbary states’ demands for tribute payments – demands made in accord with the Qur’an’s dictum that the “People of the Book” must be made to “pay the jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued” (9:29). The Barbary pirates, also acting in accord with Islamic law regarding the kidnapping, enslaving and ransoming of non-Muslims, were seizing American ships and enslaving the crews, demanding exorbitant ransoms for their release.
The Marines put a stop to all that, and the line from the Marines’ hymn shows how pivotal their actions on the Barbary coast were to forming the Marine ethos. So for the Marines, too, we have Muslims to thank.
2. A drastically weakened economy
Osama bin Laden explained that he mounted the 9/11 jihad terror attacks in order to weaken the American economy. In October 2004 he exulted: “Al-Qaeda spent $500,000 on the event, while America, in the incident and its aftermath, lost — according to the lowest estimate — more than $500 billion, meaning that every dollar of al-Qaeda defeated a million dollars.” Then there are the further billions lost since 2004, and the billions wasted on the nation-building misadventures in Iraq and Afghanistan – such that if he were alive today, bin Laden could look with satisfaction on an America with a severely weakened economy, high unemployment, and no imminent prospects for genuine recovery.
We experience the effects of this every day in a thousand ways, large and small – in an America that is poorer, uglier, meaner, more dangerous, less productive and less efficient than it was on September 10, 2001. A veritable contribution to the fabric of our nation indeed.
1. The TSA
Once romantic and even glamorous, air travel today is an uncomfortable, uncertain, unpleasant, inhospitable, cramped affair involving intrusive and inefficient security procedures that annoy and humiliate travelers. At least everyone is humiliated equally. Passengers are poked, prodded, threatened, herded like cattle, beleaguered with delays, and treated as if they were criminals in a politically correct attempt to avoid focusing on the true source of the problem.
Meanwhile, the TSA and the Department of Homeland Security are two new bloated and ever-growing bureaucracies, further draining the already depleted American taxpayer.
And that, surely, is the crowning contribution that Muslims have made to “building the very fabric of our nation” as it stands today.