Yesterday, my colleague Shawn posted an article discussing President Obama’s statement honoring the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. And I’m here to apologize for that article.
The errors Shawn made are multitudinous, egregious, and most offensive. And while I’m no longer THE editor of the main page, I am the senior dude around here (besides Kevin, of course), so I feel a sense of obligation to clean up the mess he made.
And while I could chastise him in private, that’s not how we roll around here. Unlike other groups I could name (such as, say, the Obama administration), we believe in openness and transparency and airing our dirty laundry in public.
First up, he mocked Islam’s history. As President Obama said, it is indeed worth noting “Islam’s role in advancing justice, progress, tolerance, and the dignity of all human beings.”
That was unfair of Shawn. Islam has done wonders for advancing those ideals. About a thousand years ago, as Christianity was leading Europe into the Dark Ages, Islam stepped in and became the custodian of scientific knowledge and advances, as well as being pretty tolerant of non-Muslims in their lands.
That didn’t last very long, though — at some point (I’m no great scholar) Islam moved from being a champion of those ideals to an enemy of them. But that, too, has done wonders to advance them — sometimes the best thing a struggle needs is adversity. I know I’m often at my best when I’m challenged. And it has shown itself to be a great argument in favor of enlightenment and freedom — by showing a tremendous counterexample.
So, the real question Shawn should have been asking was not “when was Islam on the right side,” but “what the hell happened?”
Next up, Shawn challenged the assertion that “Islam has always been a part of America.” In fact, Shawn demonstrated his astonishing ignorance by sarcastically stating “When I think of the founding of this country, I think Islam.”
I can say the same thing, without the sarcasm. Islam was a fundamental factor in the earliest stages of our nationhood, and to deny that is nothing short of gross ignorance.
The very first challenge the nascent United States faced abroad was the Barbary Pirates, the Muslim buccaneers who terrorized the Mediterranean from their city-states along northern Africa. They demanded “tribute” from those who would ply those seas, seizing the ships of those nations that didn’t pay the blackmail. Once the United States was free of Great Britain, we were no longer covered by the British blackmail payments, and the pirates demanded we start paying their protection money.
Fighting Islamic terrorism was the very first act of the United States on the world stage, and we still sing of those days. Perhaps someone should explain to Shawn the significance of the second line of the Marine Corps Hymn: “…to the shores of Tripoli.”
If it wasn’t for Islam, the United States would have had a tremendously hard time being taken seriously by the rest of the world. So it’s entirely fair to cite Islam’s crucial role in the United States, from its very founding. Again, Islam advanced the cause of freedom and liberty and progress — by providing the adversity needed to make it a true challenge.
Folks, we really do try to do our best here. I don’t know what Shawn was thinking when he published his piece. I do know that he’s better than that, and I’m going to chalk it up to him just having a rough day.