America's Founding Fathers Prepared to Include Muslims
[By Shahed Amanullah – alt.muslim — January 3, 2007]
. . . Adorned with his initials, Jefferson's Qur'an — a 1764 English translation from Arabic by George Sale — was purchased and used during his comparative legal studies, and was sold to the Library of Congress after the War of 1812.
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And despite public opinion about Islam at the time (which differs little from Sale's professed negative statements), Jefferson explicitly referenced Islam in his support of Virginia's Statute for Establishing Religious Freedom in 1786, where he praised its protections of “the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mahometan [Muslim], the Hindoo and the Infidel.”
Early American writings show Jefferson wasn't alone. “It is clear that the Founding Fathers thought about the relationship of Islam to the new nation,” writes James Hutson, Manuscript Division Chief for the Library of Congress, “and were prepared to make a place for it in the republic.
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An important point to note is that regardless of personal opinion about the religion of Islam, neither politician nor citizen during America's founding would countenance the exclusion of Muslims from American political or civic life.During the formation of the United States, when the Constitution and Bill of Rights were being debated at both the state and federal level, opponents of religious freedom statutes cited the fear of a Muslim being elected to office. “As there are no religious tests, pagans, deists and Mahometans might obtain office,” argued Baptist Rev. Henry Abbot during North Carolina's debate. “In the course of four or five hundred years I do not know how it will work,” countered North Carolina Provincial Congress member William Lancaster. “This is most certain, that Papists may occupy that [government] chair, and Mahometans may take it. I see nothing against it.”