Essay:A Review of David Barton's "An Historical Perspective on a Muslim Being Sworn into Congress on the Koran"

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As a history major and rationalwikian with a lot of time on his hands, I thought I might as well spend my time doing the two things I love most: reading history and debunking wingnuts.

David Barton's essay actually contained quite a bit of real historical fact, which greatly surprised me, considering he's a known pesudohistorian.

Nevertheless, it still contained errors, but that's not what bothered me. What bothered me the most is Barton's gross generalizations and fearmongering tone.

Throughout his discription of the Barbary Wars, Barton refers to the Barbary Corsairs as "terrorists". This is misnomer because, according to Dictionary.com, terrorism is "the unlawful use of violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims". The Corsairs, on the other hand, were more interested in capturing Christians to sell as slaves, which is an economic goal, not a political one.

It seems like Barton suffers cognitive dissonance. Earlier in the essay, he sites examples to make it clear that the United States was founded as a nation that respects religious freedom. This, of course, is what we know as secularism. Yet no more than a page and a half later, Barton says that "secularism and communism join Islam as the other two worst offenders" of religious liberty!

One of Barton's sweeping accusations is that "the religion of Islam, both past and present, has yet to demonstrate that it is friendly to a free government and a free people". As evidence, he cites the fact that the U. S. Commission on International Religious Freedom lists "Islamic Nations" like Eritrea, Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, and Nigeria as countries. While these countries are on that list, it's worth noting that there are prominately Muslim countries that aren't on it, including Tunesia, Morocco, Algeria, Albania, Oman, Maurtania, Mali, Niger, Chad, Senegal, Jordan, Kosovo, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Malaysia, Burkina Faso, and Lebanon. So using his methodology, it's clear that not all Muslims are against religious liberty. Barton then goes on cite that Charles Montesquieu, John Quincy Adams, Charles Galloway, and John Fiske's praise of Christian ruler and condemnation of Muslim rulers as proof that are lawful-abiding and civilized while Muslims are despotic and barbaric, because everyone knows that Christians are incapable of demonstrating brutality.

Barton shows cognitive dissosence a second time in his advice to Christian bigots who are "concerned about the presence of Islam" A kind way of saying bigotry if there ever was one. In his second point of advice, he says that Christians shouldn't worry about competing religions because "God will cause the truth to prevail". He may be a bit exclusiveist, but still, I like where this is going....

However, Barton follows up this