The following remarks were made by President Obama at an Iftar Dinner for Muslims held at in the East Room at the White House:
As I’ve noted before, Thomas Jefferson once held a sunset dinner here with an envoy from Tunisia — perhaps the first Iftar at the White House, more than 200 years ago. And some of you, as you arrived tonight, may have seen our special display, courtesy of our friends at the Library of Congress — the Koran that belonged to Thomas Jefferson. And that’s a reminder, along with the generations of patriotic Muslims in America, that Islam — like so many faiths — is part of our national story.
As Paul Harvey would say, “Now the rest of the story.”
The Barbary pirates habitually preyed on ships from “Christian nations,” enslaving “Christian” seamen. “Barbary was Christendom’s Gulag Archipelago.”1
Jefferson, embroiled in a war with Islamic terrorists in his day, commented, “Too long, for the honor of nations, have those Barbarians been [permitted] to trample on the sacred faith of treaties, on the rights and laws of human nature!”2
Little has changed since the eighteenth century. In Joseph Wheelan’s well researched and highly readable book on America’s first war on terror with Islam, we learn that “Jefferson’s war pitted a modern republic with a free-trade, entrepreneurial creed against a medieval autocracy whose credo was piracy and terror. It matched an ostensibly Christian nation against an avowed Islamic one that professed to despise Christians.”3 Wheelan’s historical assessment of the time is on target. “Except for its Native American population and a small percentage of Jews, the United States was solidly Christian, while the North African regencies were just as solidly Muslim — openly hostile toward Christians.”4
The Quran’s peace initiatives are one sided. To have peace, opposing forces must submit to Islam or be destroyed. Paul Johnson writes:
[T]he history of Islam from Arabia was followed by the rapid conquest of North Africa, the invasion and virtual conquest of Spain, and a thrust into France that carried the crescent to the gates of Paris. It took half a millennium or reconquest to expel the Moslems from Western Europe. The Crusades, far from being an outrageous prototype of Western imperialism, as is taught in most of our schools, were a mere episode in a struggle that has lasted 1,400 years and were one of the few occasions when Christians took the offensive to regain the “occupied territories” of the Holy Land.5
As early as 1786, Jefferson, who was serving as the ambassador to France, and John Adams, the Ambassador to Britain at that time, met in London with Ambassador Abdrahaman, the Dey of Tripoli’s ambassador to Britain, in an attempt to negotiate a peace treaty based on Congress’ vote of funding. Peace would come at a price.
If America wanted a “temporary peace” — a one-year guarantee — it would cost $66,000 plus a 10% commission. “Everlasting peace” was a bargain at $160,000 plus the obligatory commission. The total cost came to $1.3 million. In a letter to John Jay, Jefferson wrote the following:
The Ambassador answered us that it was founded on the Laws of their Prophet, that it was written in their Koran, that all nations who should not have acknowledged their authority were sinners, that it was their right and duty to make war upon them wherever they could be found, and to make slaves of all they could take as Prisoners, and that every Musselman [Muslim] who should be slain in battle was sure to go to Paradise.6
Abdrahaman was paraphrasing the Quran’s “rules of engagement” found in the 47 Surah:
“Whenever you encounter the ones who disbelieve [during wartime], seize them by their necks until once you have subdued them, then tie them up as prisoners, either in order to release them later on, or also to ask for ransom, until war lays down her burdens.”
Unless a nation submits to Islam, that nation is by definition at war with Islam. Islam’s goal is to conquer the world, either by voluntary submission or by Allah’s sword.7
When President Jefferson refused to increase the tribute demanded by the Islamists of his day, Tripoli declared war on the United States. A United States navy squadron, under Commander Edward Preble, blockaded Tripoli from 1803 to 1805. After rebel soldiers from Tripoli, led by United States Marines, captured the city of Derna, the Pasha of Tripoli signed a treaty promising to exact no more tribute.
The Marine’s Hymn with the line “From the Halls of Montezuma to the Shores of Tripoli” should have been sung in the East Room of the White House to put history in perspective for the President and his Muslim guests.
- Stephen Clissold, The Barbary Slaves (New York: Barnes & Noble,  1992), 4. [↩]
- Thomas Jefferson, congratulatory letter to Lt. Andrew Sterett (1760–1807). Quoted in Joseph Wheelan, Jefferson’s War: America’s First War on Terror, 1801–1805 (New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers, 2003), 102. [↩]
- Wheelan, Jefferson’s War, xxiii. [↩]
- Wheelan, Jefferson’s War, 7. [↩]
- Paul Johnson, “‘Relentlessly and Thoroughly’: The Only Way to Respond,” National Review (October 15, 2001). Consider this from John Quincy Adams: Consider the following from John Quincy Adams: “The precept of the koran is, perpetual war against all who deny, that Mahomet is the prophet of God. The vanquished may purchase their lives, by the payment of tribute; the victorious may be appeased by a false and delusive promise of peace; and the faithful follower of the prophet, may submit to the imperious necessities of defeat: but the command to propagate the Moslem creed by the sword is always obligatory, when it can be made effective. The commands of the prophet may be performed alike, by fraud, or by force.” [↩]
- Quoted in Wheeler, Jefferson’s War, 40–41. [↩]
- Robert Spencer, The Truth about Muhammad: Founder of the World’s Most Intolerant Religion (Washington, D.C.: Regnery, 2006) and Robert Spencer, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) ( Washington, D.C.: Regnery, 2005). [↩]