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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.

Originally posted to dilford on Sat Feb 28, 2009 at 03:35 AM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Bonus fun for YOU! (13+ / 0-)

    Best link you can find for Textbook League (I didn't even bother- I knew what I'd find) gets a big, shiny, wet TIP!

    Otium cum dignitate

    by dilford on Sat Feb 28, 2009 at 03:37:19 AM PST

  •  Too dumb? (6+ / 0-)

    His BIO from the MEPC web page:  Another Harvard Law grad.  Yeesh.

    Ambassador Chas. W. Freeman, Jr. succeeded Senator George McGovern as President of the Middle East Policy Council on December 1, 1997.

    Ambassador Freeman was Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs from 1993-94, earning the highest public service awards of the Department of Defense for his roles in designing a NATO-centered post-Cold War European security system and in reestablishing defense and military relations with China. He served as U. S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia (during operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm). He was Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs during the historic U.S. mediation of Namibian independence from South Africa and Cuban troop withdrawal from Angola.

    Chas. Freeman served as Deputy Chief of Mission and Chargé d'Affaires in the American embassies at both Bangkok (1984-1986) and Beijing (1981-1984). He was Director for Chinese Affairs at the U.S. Department of State from 1979-1981. He was the principal American interpreter during the late President Nixon's path-breaking visit to China in 1972. In addition to his Middle Eastern, African, East Asian and European diplomatic experience, he served in India.

    Ambassador Freeman earned a certificate in Latin American studies from the National Autonomous University of Mexico, certificates in both the national and Taiwan dialects of Chinese from the former Foreign Service Institute field school in Taiwan, a BA from Yale University and a JD from the Harvard Law School. He is the recipient of numerous high honors and awards. He is the author of The Diplomat's Dictionary (Revised Edition) and Arts of Power, both published by the United States Institute of Peace in 1997

    Those who hear not the music-think the dancers mad

    by Eiron on Sat Feb 28, 2009 at 03:54:50 AM PST

    •  Chas Freeman, as he is known, (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      is a long-time career public servant, with a long experience in the Department of State (where I worked with him on the Namibian independence effort) and later at senior ranks in DoD.  He got there on merit, and did a good job on our behalf.

      The attempts to demonize him, described above, only show the depths of ignorance on the part of those making the attempt.  

      Education at Yale College and Harvard Law are good credentials, too (in the real world, anyway).

  •  Don't understand GOP Muslim demonizing (5+ / 0-)

    anyway. Why do they spend so much time obsessing about this issue? Are they trying to ensure that they permanently lose the electoral college in Michigan or something?

    It's like they're actually aware that they're trying to become a party of exclusively white male southern protestants.

    Bipartisanship: what happens when an unstoppable force tries to reason with an immovable object!

    by Bobs Telecaster on Sat Feb 28, 2009 at 05:07:24 AM PST

  •  There's some suggestive evidence (8+ / 0-)

    of trans-Atlantic travel by Africans prior to Columbus.  Moche portraiture pottery, for example, included representations of people who look African, and their civilization collapsed around 700 AD.

    No one has ever found, however, evidence of sustained contact between the Old World and the New World prior to Columbus's voyages -- excepting the brief establishment of a Viking colony in Newfoundland in the eleventh century.  Some scholars speculate isolated voyages, perhaps of boats blown off course and then unable to return to their home port.

    Shabbas and Quick cite travelers' accounts from Muslim Spain of back and forth voyages to the New World prior to the year 1000, but frankly those accounts don't look very credible to me.

    Black Nationalists have tried to use the partial evidence of pre-Columbian voyages to construct an overarching narrative of African naval exploration in the New World, most famously in Ivan van Sertima's They Came Before Columbus (1976).  I don't know of many scholar's who accept Sertima's thesis these days, but there is no question it is a legitimate, scholarly one.

    Refuted, but still scholarly...

    •  There is also evidence that the Chinese (4+ / 0-)

      made here before Columbus. Mayflower MAOISTS?

      "My case is alter'd, I must work for my living." Moll Cut-Purse, The Roaring Girl - 1612, England's First Actress

      by theRoaringGirl on Sat Feb 28, 2009 at 06:30:50 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  European fishermen (6+ / 0-)

      had been making the journey across for many years before Columbus "discovered" America.  The Grand Banks cod fishery has an ancient history.

      But then northwestern European and Basque and Iberian fishermen weren't asked.   What fisherman in their right minds would give away the hot spot!  

      Even a decade ago, when our boat communicated on open lines like radio, a code was used (some actual physical code "machines" that would shift all the words by colour, etc.) so as to not give away the actual catch and location...though cell phones have rendered the codes obsolete.

      Was Columbus completely unaware of the Norse experiences only 4 centuries before him?   But then Herodotus knew that the Caspian Sea was an inland sea, and yet 150 years later Greeks had ignored this and Alexander may have assumed it was open to "Ocean"...geography wasn't Aristotle's strong suit.   He also was not aware of the journey of Skylax  a century before (or so) that had shown the Indus was not the Nile.  (obligatory note:  I do not approve of Alexander the Great)

      Anyway,  the northwest Atlantic certainly wouldn't  have conjured up visions of the spicy East that Columbus was searching for.   And even if Columbus was aware of the previous travel to the "New World"...he had no way of knowing that the icy fishing grounds in the north were but the beginning of the Western hemisphere that completely blocked his easy route to the spice of the "Orient".

      •  Thor Heyerdahl proved the ancient Egyptians (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        dilford, Clytemnestra

        could have accomplished the trip with the Ra II voyage from Morocco to Barbados.  The currents and winds are very favorable for the one way trip west.  Ja mon.

        He was also interested in broader, viable prehistoric ethnic ranges including showing that the Vikes travelled to/settled in the Caspian region.

        Interesting thread.  Fun to what if these kinds of mysteries.

        "Peace be the journey. Cool Runnings!"

        by Terra Mystica on Sat Feb 28, 2009 at 03:35:14 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Does anyone know (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      the outcome of the "Cocaine Mummies" in Egypt (mummies that tested positive for cocaine in their bodies)? Since it is only known to occur in the New World naturally it suggested some kind of contact.  As I recall detractors said it was from post contact mummies, but was also found in older specimens that were harder to explain.   I haven't seen anything about it in years.

      Your political compass Economic Left/Right: -6.50 Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -6.67

      by bythesea on Sat Feb 28, 2009 at 09:49:53 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  So funny (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dilford, Clytemnestra, Terra Mystica

    ...I guess we could even go back as far as the Asian bridge shelf theory that Asia was once connected to the continental America and that is wasn't the Spanish explorers that populated the US with horses left behind  but the three toed Asian ponies that migrated across the Asian shelf and are the genis of the modern horse.

    Anyway why do they call them the "Mayflower" Muslims?
    The Mayflower pilgrams didn't arrive here until 1620, the Jamestown Va settlement was founded in 1612 and the British Lost Colony at Manteo even before then...don't they even know US history?

  •  Mayflower Mormons, too! (4+ / 0-)

    Well, it may not be taught in gummint schools, but LDS churches teach that Jesus was here quite some time before Colombus.

    Let CPAC get its panties in a twist over that.

    I am so sick of whiny-ass titty-baby Republicans who are pouting over their Epic. Fail.

  •  I actually have an early copy (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dilford, bicycle Hussein paladin

    of the Arab World Studies Notebook, and I read it more than ten years ago.  Not that there would definitely not be this claim in there, but it doesn't strike me as all that plausible. The book is a set of teaching lessons and supporting material for school teachers who do not have background in the field who are not specialists but might want to be able to incorporate some Islamic information into their lessons.

  •  It all about deligimizing Muslims. (3+ / 0-)

    The right wing ramped this up after 9-11 along with their "they've never produced or given anything to the world" - and to the continuation of the "White Man's Burden"

    They can not and will not admit that Muslim have done any good and that they own many of their advances to Muslim culture.

    They did the same thing to Africans and African Americans. They have been loosing ground with that for decades, but just like the right wing they need someone to hate and someone to put down so they can make themselves feel better about themselves.

    "A conservative is a man with two perfectly good legs who, however, has never learned how to walk forward." - Franklin Delano Roosevelt

    by Clytemnestra on Sat Feb 28, 2009 at 08:40:40 PM PST

  •  Right-wingers have a history of bogus accusations (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    about academics and teachers who teach about Islam. A very long and rich history. See, for example, This is a website where Daniel Pipes solicited students to report on their professors, resulting in a lot of bogus (and easily refuted) accusations. This was mostly in 2002. The goal was to silence criticism of the proposed Iraq War from college students and professors. The pro-Israel and anti-Arab, anti-Muslim, and anti-Asian bias of U.S. traditional media encourage them.

  •  the textbook does sound crappy (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dilford, IreGyre

    By the way: Cleary also announces that the Koran is "the last link in a chain of revelation going back to time immemorial, even to the very origin of humankind."

    If that's presented in the book as history, that's simple proselytizing and would be unconstitutional to be taught in school.

    •  the Cleary quote (0+ / 0-)

      sounds very much out of character/out of context for him. Check the (long) list of his books at the Amazon link I provided and you'll see that most lean more towards Eastern spirituality, although he certainly has written on Islam as well. But the idea that he has ever stated "as fact" the above quote is highly unlikely.

      Let's also remember that AWSN was a supplementary workbook as commenter annetteboardman noted above, not a "required" textbook. That said, it may very well be crappy, it obviously was partially funded by Arab sources; all perfectly legitimate areas for debate. I just tried to nail down one of the flagrantly illegitimate complaints.

      Otium cum dignitate

      by dilford on Sun Mar 01, 2009 at 08:30:13 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

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