Akbar Ahmed, the chair of Islamic studies at American University, has advised many government officials, including General Petraeus, Richard Holbrooke, and George W. Bush. He speaks regularly on BBC and CNN, and has appeared on many U.S. shows, including Oprah and Nightline.
To oppose the "burn the Quran" event planned by Pastor Terry Jones, Ahmed wrote an editorial for CNN in which he stated:
Not only are the actions of Jones contrary to the life and teachings of Jesus Christ, but they are also against the ideals of the American Founding Fathers.
The Founding Fathers read and honored the same Quran that Jones is now seeking to burn.
[John Adams, America's second president] showed the utmost respect for Islam, naming the Prophet Mohammed as one of the greatest truth seekers in history.
These statements are utterly opposed by the facts.
John Adams said absolutely nothing of the kind. Correspondence from John Adams to Thomas Jefferson on July 16, 1814, reveals John Adams' true feelings about Islam: Adams states that Mohammed is "a military fanatic" who "denies that laws were made for him; he arrogates everything to himself by force of arms."
John Adams did indeed own a Quran — the copy he owned contained the following in the preface:
This book is a long conference of God, the angels, and Mahomet, which that false prophet very grossly invented; sometimes he introduceth God, who speaketh to him, and teacheth him his law, then an angel, among the prophets, and frequently maketh God to speak in the plural. … Thou wilt wonder that such absurdities have infected the best part of the world, and wilt avouch, that the knowledge of what is contained in this book, will render that law contemptible …
Perhaps Akbar Ahmed misspoke, and was referring to John Adams' son, John Quincy Adams? The sixth president, not the second?
No. Here is what John Quincy Adams wrote about the Islamic prophet Mohammed:
In the seventh century of the Christian era, a wandering Arab of the lineage of Hagar, the Egyptian, combining the powers of transcendent genius, with the preternatural energy of a fanatic, and the fraudulent spirit of an impostor, proclaimed himself as a messenger from Heaven, and spread desolation and delusion over an extensive portion of the earth. Adopting from the sublime conception of the Mosaic law, the doctrine of one omnipotent God; he connected indissolubly with it, the audacious falsehood, that he was himself his prophet and apostle. Adopting from the new Revelation of Jesus, the faith and hope of immortal life, and of future retribution, he 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. [emphasis in the original]
John Quincy Adams also described the Quran in one of his essays as follows:
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.
Ahmed also claims in his editorial that "Benjamin Franklin called the Prophet Mohammed a model of compassion." Ahmedmade similar claims on The Daily Show:
I quote the Founding Fathers. … John Adams on the Prophet of Islam: He called him one of the greatest truth seekers in history. (Ben) Franklin called him a model of compassion. And Jefferson had the first Iftaar … and owned a copy of the Quran. … Those Americans who are attacking Islam simply as a terrorist religion or a religion of evil, really need to go back to their own Founding Fathers.
In a March 23, 1790, letter to the editor of the Federal Gazette, Ben Franklin wrote:
Nor can the Plundering of Infidels be in that sacred Book [the Quran] forbidden, since it is well known from it, that God has given the World, and all that it contains, to his faithful Mussulmen, who are to enjoy it of Right as fast as they conquer it.
It is certainly one of the most convincing proofs that Mohammedism was no other than human invention, that it owed its progress and establishment almost entirely to the sword.
In his editorial, Akbar Ahmed claims:
Thomas Jefferson kept the … Quran in his personal collection and it informed his decision to host the first presidential iftaar during Ramadan.
President Obama repeated this claim — that Jefferson hosted the first presidential iftaar — at the most recent White House Ramadan dinner.
Let's review the facts.
During the Barbary Wars, in 1805, the bey (i.e., monarch) of Tunis threatened war with the United States after the U.S. had been successful in capturing some Tunisian pirate ships. The bey sent an envoy to the United States to negotiate for the return of the ships. This envoy stayed in Washington for six months, during which the month of Ramadan passed.
One of Thomas Jefferson's many invitations extended to this envoy to meet with him at the White House was during the month of Ramadan. To accommodate the envoy's religious obligation, Jefferson changed the time of dinner from the usual "half after three" to "precisely at sunset."
Jefferson was being polite — not celebrating the first White House iftaar, as Akbar Ahmed suggests.
The first Ramadan iftaar was not actually held at the White House until 1996.
Indeed, in a letter dated June 26, 1822, Jefferson had this to say about Islam in a passage regarding Calvinism:
Verily I say these are the false shepherds foretold as to enter not by the door into the sheepfold, but to climb up some other way. They are mere usurpers of the Christian name, teaching a counter-religion made up of the deliria of crazy imaginations, as foreign from Christianity as is that of Mahomet.
For good measure, Akbar Ahmed also mentioned John Locke:
The Founding Fathers were also inspired by Christian thinkers like John Locke, who declared that the true Christian's duty was to "practice charity, meekness, and good-will in general toward all mankind, even to those that are not Christians."
Akbar Ahmed is currently Ibn Khaldoun chair and professor of Islamic studies at American University. Ibn Khaldoun was a 14th century Islamic philosopher and scholar, a man about whom Akbar Ahmed has written. Ibn Khaldoun advocated for violence against non-Muslims as a religious duty, in order to achieve the larger goal of dismantling non-Muslim civilization and imposing an Islamic caliphate.
Ibn Khaldoun makes it clear that holy war is the duty of every Muslim. From his most famous work, Muqaddimah:
In the Muslim community, the holy war is a religious duty, because of the universalism of the (Muslim) mission and (the obligation to) convert everybody to Islam either by persuasion or by force.
Akbar Ahmed is, as previously noted, an advisor to General Petraeus. One wonders if General Petraeuss has been influenced by the false teachings of this professor.
Laura Rubenfeld is an analyst for the Investigative Project on Terrorism.