In the words of their presidents
Mareeg.com-President’s Day in the USA is based on a historic event to honor the first US president, George Washington, back in 1879. It then evolved into a federal holiday for all government organizations, and the third Monday of every February was eventually dedicated as the day to observing the holiday.
This day, which fell two days ago, recognizes the achievements of the man who came to be known as “the father of his country”. It honors the extraordinary sense of leadership that Washington exhibited as a unifying force for a deeply divided country during the American revolutionary era in the 18th century, and who set the standards and became “an example for all future holders of the office”.
Successive US presidents have used this day as a platform to honor those who fought for their nation and have often interspersed it with soothing words on communal relations. So what does that have to do with us?
It is no secret that there are some in the region who are convinced that the West, and in particular the United States, are bent on a course in conflict with Islam. They cite examples of the war on Iraq, in Afghanistan, the brutality of Abu Ghuraib or the insensitivities at Guantanamo. To them, there exists an undisclosed agenda of maligning and discrediting Islam for political gains.
But in all fairness let us allay such charges with real words said by US presidents on Islam and Muslims, most of which came in a speech on President’s Day. The Islamic Circle of North America researched and compiled a list of references to Muslims and Islam that US presidents have brought up in their President Day speeches over the years.
We begin with the words of the current US President Barack Obama who back in 2009 said, “Islam has always been a part of America’s story…and since our founding, American Muslims have enriched the United States. Islam has demonstrated through words and deeds the possibilities of religious tolerance and racial equality. Islamic culture has given us majestic arches and soaring spires; timeless poetry and cherished music; elegant calligraphy and places of peaceful contemplation.”
In 2002, the much maligned US President George Bush Jr. in his speech added that, “Here in the United States our Muslim citizens are making many contributions in business, science and law, medicine and education, and in other fields…They are upholding our nation’s ideals of liberty and justice in a world at peace. Islam inspires countless individuals to lead lives of honesty, integrity, and morality.”
In 1994, the two term US President Bill Clinton is recorded as saying, “Americans know the traditional values of Islam, devotion to faith and good works, to family and society, are in harmony with the best of American ideals.”
The senior George W. Bush, the 41st President of the United States in speaking about Islam back in 1991 said, “I’m not a student of religion, but I don’t find anything in what the principal teachings of Islam that put us in contradiction at all. In fact, the principles are the same as what — we have a diverse religious culture. But it’s kindness, it’s be good to your neighbor, it’s love, and it’s take care of children. It’s all these things that — so there’s no anti-Islam.”
Jimmy Carter, the 39th President whose major achievements were the breakthrough of the impasse between the Israelis and the Arabs and who helped forge the Camp David Accords that led to peace between Egypt and Israel was quoted in 1980 as saying: “From the beginning, the United States has enjoyed close and valued ties with the Muslim world. We have the deepest respect and reverence for Islam and all who share the faith of Islam. On the basis of both values and interests, the natural relationship between Islam and the United States is one of friendship.”
In 1974, US President Gerald Ford said, “For nearly two hundred years, our nation has derived its strength from the diversity of its people and of their beliefs. That strength has been greatly enhanced by the Islamic religious heritage.”
Dwight Eisenhower, the much respected Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces during World War II and the 34th US President had said back in 1957: “Civilization owes to the Islamic world some of its most important tools and achievements…the Muslim genius has added much to the culture of all peoples.”
Cynics may argue that these are only hollow words spoken by politicians, but the fact that the words had been publicly said says much about their intentions. The doubter cannot continue to blame their state of affairs on others.
— The author can be reached at email@example.com and followed on Twitter/@talmaeena