War with Tripoli

The Truth About Obama’s Claim that Islam Has Always Been Part of America

President Obama claimed in his visit to a mosque that Islam is “woven into the fabric” of the United States since our nation’s founding and is a religion of peace.

President Obama went on to say that “Jefferson and John Adams had their own copies of the Koran” and that “Benjamin Franklin wrote that even if the Mufti of Constantinople were to send a missionary to preach to us, he would find a pulpit at his service.”

Franklin was referring in his Autobiography to a building that had been erected so that anyone of any view could use it. He was not proposing that Christian pulpits would be open to a Muslim Mufti. What Franklin describes is similar to what the Bible describes in Acts 17:16-34, the Areopagus in Athens where “all the Athenians and the strangers visiting there used to spend their time in nothing other than telling or hearing something new” (v. 21).

Franklin also wrote, “Nor can the Plundering of Infidels be in that sacred Book (the Qur’an) 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.”

President Obama said that “the very word Islam comes from ‘Salam’ – peace. The standard greeting is ‘As-Salaam-Alaikum’ – ‘Peace be upon you,’” he explained. (H/T: Breitbart).

I have a library of around 20,000 volumes. Included among the best books are some of the worst books – everything from witchcraft and cannibalism to Nazism and Communism. I can assure you that I do not support any of them. The books are for research purposes.

The same is true of Jefferson and his copy of the Koran. He owned a copy so he could understand Islam. And what did he understand about Islam from first-hand experience?

As early as 1786, Jefferson, who was serving as the ambassador to France, and John Adams, the Ambassador to Britain, met in London with Ambassador Abdrahaman, the Dey of Tripoli’s ambassador to Britain, in an attempt to negotiate a peace treaty based on Congress’ vote of funding.

Peace would come at a price. If America wanted “temporary peace,” a one-year guarantee, it would cost $66,000 plus a 10% commission. “Everlasting peace” was a bargain at $160,000 plus the obligatory commission. This only applied to Tripoli. Other nations would also have to be paid. The amount came to $1.3 million. There was no guarantee that the treaties would be honored. Jefferson and Adams tried in vain to argue that the United States were not at war with Tripoli. In what way had the U.S provoked the Muslims, they asked? Ambassador Abdrahaman went on to explain “the finer points of Islamic jihad” to Jefferson and Adams. In a letter to John Jay, Jefferson wrote the following:

 “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 [Muslim] who should be slain in battle was sure to go to Paradise.”1

 Abdrahaman was paraphrasing the Koran’s “rules of engagement” found in the 47 Surah:

“Whenever you encounter the ones who disbelieve [during wartime], seize them by their necks until once you have subdued them, then tie them up as prisoners, either in order to release them later on, or also to ask for ransom, until war lays down her burdens.”

A non-aggressing nation is at war with Islam as long as it hasn’t embraced Islam. Islam’s goal is to conquer the world, either by the submission of one’s will or by Allah’s sword.2

When President Jefferson refused to increase the tribute demanded by the Islamists, Tripoli declared war on the United States. A United States navy squadron, under Commander Edward Preble, blockaded Tripoli from 1803 to 1805. After rebel soldiers from Tripoli, led by United States Marines, captured the city of Derna, the Pasha of Tripoli signed a treaty promising to exact no more tribute.

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The Barbary pirates habitually preyed on ships from “Christian nations,” enslaving “Christian” seamen. “Barbary was Christendom’s Gulag Archipelago.”3 Jefferson, embroiled in a war with Islamic terrorists in his day, commented, “Too long, for the honor of nations, have those Barbarians been [permitted] to trample on the sacred faith of treaties, on the rights and laws of human nature!”4

Little has changed since the eighteenth century. In Joseph Wheelan’s Jefferson’s War we learn that “Jefferson’s war pitted a modern republic with a free-trade, entrepreneurial creed against a medieval autocracy whose credo was piracy and terror. It matched an ostensibly Christian nation against an avowed Islamic one that professed to despise Christians.”5

Wheelan’s historical assessment of the time is on target. “Except for its Native American population and a small percentage of Jews, the United States was solidly Christian, while the North African regencies were just as solidly Muslim — openly hostile toward Christians.”6

Dumas Malone, Jefferson’s biographer, writes: “Treaties had been made with these petty piratical powers in the past, all of them calling for what amounted to tribute. The United States was acting like the other nations with commerce to protect, but Jefferson had opposed this sort of policy from the time he was in France, believing that the only effective language to employ against these brigands of the sea was that of force. He never believed in buying peace with them, and actually he was the first President to use force against them.”7

President Obama is engaged in myth making. He’s counting on people not actually looking into America’s early dealing with Islam. These things are rarely taught in our nation’s government schools so as not to offend.


  1. Quoted in Joseph Wheelan, Jefferson’s War: America’s First War on Terror, 1801–1805 (New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers, 2003), 40–41. 

  2. Robert Spencer, The Truth about Muhammad: Founder of the World’s Most Intolerant Religion (Washington, D.C.: Regnery, 2006) and Robert Spencer, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) ( Washington, D.C.: Regnery, 2005). 

  3. Stephen Clissold, The Barbary Slaves (New York: Barnes & Noble, [1977] 1992), 4. 

  4. Thomas Jefferson, congratulatory letter to Lt. Andrew Sterett (1760–1807). Quoted in Wheelan, Jefferson’s War, 102. 

  5. Wheelan, Jefferson’s War, xxiii. 

  6. Wheelan, Jefferson’s War, 7. 

  7. Dumas Malone, Jefferson the President: First Term, 1801–1805 (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1970), 4:97–98. 

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Gary DeMar

Gary DeMar was raised in the suburbs of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He is a graduate of Western Michigan University (1973) and Reformed Theological Seminary (1979). He has served as researcher and writer at the Christian Worldview ministry American Vision since 1980 and President since 1984. Today he serves as Senior Fellow at American Vision where he lectures, researches, and writes on various worldview issues. Gary is the author of 30 books on a variety of topics – from "America’s Christian History" and "God and Government" to "Thinking Straight in a Crooked World" to "Last Days Madness." Gary has been interviewed by Time magazine, CNN, MSNBC, FOX, the BBC, and Sean Hannity. He has done numerous radio and television interviews, including the “Bible Answer Man,” hosted by Hank Hanegraaff and “Today’s Issues” with Tim Wildmon and Marvin Sanders. Newspaper interviews with Gary have appeared in the Washington Times, Toledo (Ohio) Blade, the Sacramento Bee, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Marietta Daily Journal, San Francisco Chronicle, The Orlando Sentinel, and the Chicago Tribune.

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