With all the looniness attendant to CPAC so much in the air, I made a rare visit over to Atlas Shrugs to get a good whiff of the odor of wingnut braincells popping and frying (usually I satisfy myself with checking in at Sadly, No to see what the fringers are up to). And sure, it's hilarious to us in the "reality based" community to see the freakazoids all riled up and hoopin' and hollerin' and such, but one item in particular caught my eye and led to a fun evening of Googling to try and see "where the truth lies".
That the Obama Administration's appointment of Charles W. Freeman, Jr. to be Chairman of the National Intelligence Council makes the more slavishly pro-Israel right wing nuts is not news. But some of their unhappiness finds expression in the craziest ways-
His MEPC political action group publishes a Workbook that teaches our children that the Muslims discovered the "New World" and the "Indians" who met he(sic) English Explorers all had Muslim names.
I give you a tale that includes the father of the father of cybernetics and the Islamic conspiracy to wreck our very own American history as abetted by Charles Freeman.
Now on the face of it, that's a pretty astounding claim. Luckily Ms. Geller sources this claim- it's the blog "Yid With Lid:Exploring Themes of Political Relativity" where we first find mention of "Arab World Studies Notebook", the book that generated YWL's alarming headline "Mayflower MUSLIMS???What Obama's Proposed Intelligence Chief is Teaching Your Children". Now to be fair, the article raises legitimate concerns about balance, propaganda, blah blah in "Arab World Studies Notebook" but I don't care right now. I'm on the hunt for these "Mayflower Muslims" because now I'm fascinated. Finally we learn that the Textbook League (and you can just guess how fair and balanced they are) did a "review" of "AWSN" and Willam J. Bennetta found an...
"....article [in the Notebook] in which Shabbas and someone called Abdallah Hakim Quick disclose that Muslims reached the New World in pre-Columbian times and spread throughout the Caribbean, Central America, South America and even Canada. By the time when Columbus arrived, it seems, the New World was fairly crawling with Muslims -- and English explorers met "Iroquois and Algonquin chiefs with names like Abdul-Rahim and Abdallah Ibn Malik." Do Quick and Shabbas cite any sources to support such claims? No, they don't. They don't even tell the names of the English explorers, let alone the titles and dates of the documents in which those explorers reported their encounters with Amerindian Muslims."
Now we're getting somewhere! Or are we? YWL provides a link to the five year old email "review" of "AWSN". Sigh. It's about what you'd expect with Bennetta furiously accusing the book of being too Arab-y. And he doesn't like Thomas Cleary (who it's clear he's never heard of). But do I take Bennetta at his word that Shabbas and Quick provide no sources for this strange claim? I know, I'll Google the quoted sentence!
And that's when the right-wing noise machine shows itself to be Johnny One-Note. American Thinker, Free Republic, Debbie Schlussel, Eagle Forum, on and on. All repeating this same nonsensical claim! All using almost identical language to suggest that Freeman was 2 dum 2 B Chairman of the National Intelligence Council on account of Indians ain't Muslims (er...well, you know what I mean?). And obviously, all relying on this 5 year old email "review" by the Textbook League's William Bennetta!
But is any of this "Mayflower Muslims" stuff true? I don't have a copy of "AWSN" in front of me. And when this many wingers are jumping on something you just know there's got to be something bogus going on, right? Thank you Google, again. I have no idea what or where this website is but they appear to have the original article by Shabbas and Quick for handy perusing. It certainly looks like the article Bennetta disparages (and I hasten to add that I make no defense of anything in the article) except...they cite a source.
In 1920, American historian and linguist Leo Weiner(sic) of Harvard University wrote a controversial but well documented work entitled Africa and the Discovery of America, in which he provided evidence that Columbus was well aware of the Manding presence and that the West African Muslims had not only spread throughout the Caribbean, Central and South America, but that they had reached Canada and were trading and intermarrying with the eastern woodland Iroquois and Algonquin nations.Much later, early English explorers were to meet Iroquois and Algonquin chiefs with names like Abdul-Rahim and Abdallah Ibn Malik.
Didn't I read that book? No, I'm thinking of Howard Waldrop's "Them Bones"...So maybe this sentence, citing a source and all, didn't make it into the actual book? I do not know. OK, so who's Leo Wiener and what's this "Africa and the Discovery of America"? Well, Leo Wiener has a Wikipedia entry that points out he was (just as Shabbas and Quick noted) a Harvard linguist and historian, translator of Tolstoy (!) and father of Norbert Wiener (!!), the "father" of cybernetics. All of a sudden the shrieky ambience of Atlas Shrugs seems far, far away...Well, what about "Africa and the Discovery of America"? I don't know. The 1922 New York Times review of Volume 2 can be found in PDF format here, Google's digitized version of Volume 3 can be found here, there's more out there (and not too hard to find) but I'm not going to bother reading it right now. I'm not a linguist, I'm not competent to judge Wiener's work. The point is, a more than competent scholar wrote three volumes positing that Africans, Muslims, had come to these Americas before 1492; at some point some other Muslims made use of some of his work in a little article that in turn became part of an "Arab World Studies Notebook". And God help us all, that then becomes the battle cry ("Mayflower MUSLIMS!!!") of a group of anti-intellectual neo-totalitarians that are so assured of the "rightness" of their world view that they can't even be bothered to use a smidgen of effort to see if maybe, just maybe, it's not so simple as they think.