The roots of Islam in North America go back to roots of this nation.
Estevanico of Azamor, also known as Mustafa Zemmouri, who was reported to have explored the future states of Arizona and New Mexico for the Spanish Empire, may have been the first Muslim to enter the historical record in North America in the early 16th century. He was a Berber originally from North Africa. Later came a wave of Muslims in the form of slaves. The latest estimates are that 30 percent of the slaves brought to the U.S. were Muslims.
The historical literature of this nation is replete with references to Islam and Mohammad. The founding fathers knew about Islam and respected the religion and its followers.
In 1775, John Adams wrote: “All sober inquirers after truth, ancient and modern, pagan and Christian, have declared that the happiness of man, as well as his dignity, consists in virtue. Confucius, Zoroaster, Socrates, Mahomet, not to mention authorities really sacred, have agreed in this.”
In a petition, a group of citizens of Chesterfield County, Va., wrote to the state assembly, on Nov. 14, 1785: “Let Jews, Mehometans and Christians of every denomination enjoy religious liberty ... .”
The connection of the Islamic world to our country is deep and as old as this nation.
On December 20, 1777, Morocco, a Muslim country, was the first nation to recognize the United States as a sovereign nation. Subsequently, a Treaty of Peace and Friendship was negotiated and signed by American Agent Thomas Barclay and the King Muhammad III in June 1786, which was later endorsed and signed by Thomas Jefferson and John Adams. This treaty, among other things, said, “Peace and Harmony shall remain ... in the fullest force” and “The Commerce with the United States shall be on the same footing as is the Commerce with Spain or as that with the most favored Nation for the time being and their Citizens shall be respected and esteemed and have full Liberty to pass and repass our Country and Sea Ports whenever they please without interruption.”
According to the Pew Research Center, there are more than 2.5 million Muslims currently living in the the U.S. These estimates are disputed; some estimates go as high as 7.5 million. Muslims in U.S. are highly diverse, perhaps more diverse than any other ethnic group. They come in every color of the rainbow and every nationality.
Ignorant of history of Islam in the U.S., a narrow minded minister, Rev. Terry Jones, of Gainesville Fla., of a tiny 50 member congregation church, recently threatened to burn copies of the Quran, which Muslims believe is word of God Almighty. Muslims consider the Quran to be holy. They wash up before they touch a copy of the Quran. They revere the words. They recite them five times a day in their prayers. They listen to these words with reverence when some Qari (reciter of Quran) recite them with beautiful melodic voices. You get them on CD, DVDs and, of course, online.
Rev. Jones reminds us of the wild and barbaric marauding hordes of Genghis Khan when they ran over Baghdad in the 11th century and burned all the books, including copies of the Quran, they could find. At the time there were one million titles published in Iraq — 600,000 in Arabic language and 400,000 in other languages. Mongolians invaders, like Rev. Jones, were ignorant and uneducated and they did not trust books. Rev. Jones also reminds us of the Nazis wearing swastikas, who burned thousands of books which they disagreed with. Perhaps Rev. Jones does not know that even if he collected all the available copies of the Quran and burned them, he cannot wipe out the teaching of the Quran.
There are millions of people in the world who have the Quran memorized. In Lodi and Stockton alone, there may be about 50 people who can recite every chapter and verse of the Quran without opening it. Rev. Jones does not know that there are hundreds of references to Mary, Jesus, Moses, John, etc., whom Muslims revere.
At least a third of the Quran talks about the Mary, Jesus, Moses and their messages. Should Rev. Jones burn copies of the Quran, he will also be burning the names and references to these holy people that are common to Christianity and Judaism. Rev. Jones does not need to threaten to burn — he needs to learn.
Taj Khan of Lodi is a retired engineer and a member of the Delta College Board of Trustees.