The Truth about the Koran and America

By Raymond Ibrahim Published on April 1, 2024

“Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” Thus fumed the Hebrew prophet millennia ago (Isaiah 5:20).

Of the many things that today conform to his lament — and they are increasingly legion — is the mainstream presentation of Islam. Consider, as just one example, the heart of Islam — the Koran — and how its introduction into the West has been utterly twisted as a way to “put darkness for light.”

From their first contact (or rather, collision) with Muslims, non-Muslims wanting to understand Muslims’ rationale for attacking them frequently turned to the Koran. But these days, you are more likely to hear that the book is as valuable to the underpinnings of American society as the Bible.

That, as I will demonstrate, is a grotesque lie.

A ‘Most Inept Little Book’

Beginning with John of Damascus (b. 675) — who said, “There are many other extraordinary and quite ridiculous things in this book which he [Muhammad] boasts were sent down to him from God” — till the modern era, non-Muslims, particularly Christians and Europeans, reached an unwavering consensus that the Koran, that “most pitiful and most inept little book of the Arab Muhammad,” not only promoted hate and violence, but was full of “ugly and vulgar filth,” including by depicting paradise as a “sexual brothel” for those who die waging jihad (to quote the eighth century’s Nicetas Byzantinos, who had and closely studied a copy of the Koran).

Even the first English translation of the Islamic holy book (based on a French translation) was produced at a time when the Muslims of North Africa — the Barbary pirates — were terrorizing virtually every corner of Europe, enslaving at least 1.25 million Europeans from as far away as Iceland. In this context, the translator of the first English-language Koran (1648), Alexander Ross, explained why Englishmen should bother reading it:

[In] viewing thine enemies in their full body, thou maist better prepare to encounter and, I hope, overcome them…. There have been continual wars, and will be still between us. It concerneth every Christian who makes conscience of his ways, to examine the cause and to look into the grounds of this war.

Then the age of political correctness came upon us — an age of unrestrained censorship and deception. U.S. President Barack Obama declared that “Islam has been woven into the fabric of our country since its founding.”

Jefferson’s Koran

As “proof” of this dubious claim, we were told that one of the earliest instances of the Koran’s introduction into America came under “progressive” circumstances. Speaking of being sworn into the House of Representatives on the same Koran that Thomas Jefferson owned, Keith Ellison exulted:

It demonstrates that from the very beginning of our country, we had people who were visionary, who were religiously tolerant, who believed that knowledge and wisdom could be gleaned from any number of sources, including the Qur’an.

Well over a decade later, in January 2019, Rashida Tlaib, another Muslim elected to the House of Representatives, said she too would be sworn in on the same Jefferson Koran. “It’s important to me because a lot of Americans have this kind of feeling that Islam is somehow foreign to American history,” she said. “Muslims were there at the beginning. … Some of our founding fathers knew more about Islam than some members of Congress now.”

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Several academics agree with this view, including Denise Spellberg, author of Thomas Jefferson’s Qu’ran: Islam and the Founders. “By using Jefferson’s Quran,” she said of the aforementioned Muslim politicians, “they’re affirming the fact that Islam has a long history in the United States, and is in fact an American religion.”

How much of any of this is true? None.

Know Thine Enemy

For starters, Jefferson’s Koran — which contained the first English translation made directly from the original Arabic and which I saw while working in the Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress — was produced to understand and therefore better resist or fight the enemy. Its translator, George Sales, who noted “the calamities brought on so many nations by the conquests” of Islam, which further helped “occasion all the detestation with which the name of Mohammed is loaded,” further implored “Providence [which] has reserved the glory of [the Koran’s] overthrow.”

Even the Smithsonian, in an article meant to put a positive spin on it, concedes that “Jefferson bought this book while he was a young man studying law, and he may have read it in part to better understand Islam’s influence on some of the world’s legal systems.”

And he most certainly needed to do so, once North African Muslims began enslaving American sailors. In an effort to ransom them and establish peaceful relations, Jefferson and John Adams — then ambassadors to France and England respectively — met with Tripoli’s ambassador to Britain, Abdul Rahman Adja. Following this diplomatic exchange, the Americans laid out the source — that is, the Koran — of Barbary’s hitherto inexplicable animosity in a letter to Congress dated March 28, 1786:

We took the liberty to make some inquiries concerning the grounds of their [Barbary’s] pretentions to make war upon nations who had done them no injury, and observed that we considered all mankind as our friends who had done us no wrong, nor had given us any provocation. 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 who should be slain in battle was sure to go to Paradise.

Although America tried for years to buy peace — including by paying an annual tribute (jizya) which amounted to 16 percent of the federal budget — war was inevitable.

And so America had its very first war as a nation (the Barbary Wars [1801-1805; 1815-1816]) — and it was against jihadist-thinking Muslims.

An ‘Essence of Violence and Lust’

Even the editor’s note of the first American edition of the Koran (1806) makes clear that its publication was not for the “cultural enrichment” of Americans, but to inform them why they had been at war. “Thou wilt wonder,” the editor writes, “that such absurdities hath infected the better part of the world, and wilt avouch, that the knowledge of what is contained in this book, wilt render that law [sharia] contemptible.”

John Adams’s own son confirmed that a dismal view of the Koran was widespread in early American history. After his father’s diplomatic exchange with Abdul Rahman Adja, John Quincy Adams (1767-1848) closely studied the Koran and Muhammad and concluded that,

Adopting from the new Revelation of Jesus, the faith and hope of immortal life, and of future retribution, he [Muhammad] humbled it to the dust by adapting all the rewards and sanctions of his religion to the gratification of the sexual passion. He poisoned the sources of human felicity at the fountain, by degrading the condition of the female sex, and the allowance of polygamy; and he declared undistinguishing and exterminating war, as a part of his religion, against all the rest of mankind. The essence of his doctrine was violence and lust: to exalt the brutal over the spiritual part of human nature… Between these two religions, thus contrasted in their characters, a war of twelve hundred years has already raged. The war is yet flagrant

The facts are simple: from Islam’s birth to the current day, non-Muslims always turned to the Koran to understand why its adherents were so hostile to them. In so doing, they were simply making use of Sun Tzu’s ancient dictum: “know thy enemy.” And what they found in the Koran has always horrified and repulsed them.

That the entire Western “mainstream” is today committed to twisting this fact in a way that exalts Islam — presenting it as part of America’s “fabric” — is yet one more way that it “puts darkness for light.”

 

Raymond Ibrahim, author of Defenders of the West and Sword and Scimitar, is the Distinguished Senior Shillman Fellow at the Gatestone Institute and the Judith Rosen Friedman Fellow at the Middle East Forum.

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