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A Muslim woman at the second presidential debate asked Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton how they would help millions of Muslims in the United States "deal with the consequences of being labeled as a threat to the country."
Trump, the Republican presidential nominee, said that Muslims have to report problems, because "if they don't do that, it's a very difficult situation for our country." And Clinton, his Democratic rival, won’t use the term "radical Islamic terrorism," Trump said, which we have said is misleading.
Clinton said she wanted Muslims to feel included in the country, "part of our homeland security."
"We've had Muslims in America since George Washington," Clinton said. "And we've had many successful Muslims. We just lost a particular well-known one with Muhammad Ali."
We wondered about Clinton’s remarks about Muslims being in America since the nation’s first president, more than 200 years ago.
Muslims were singled out this election cycle when Trump in December 2015 called for a "total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States," until U.S. representatives "can figure out what is going on."
Trump’s statement came a few days after a husband and wife in San Bernardino, Calif., fatally shot 14 people and wounded more than 20 others. The woman was from Pakistan and on the day of the attack pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, a terrorist group also known as ISIS.
In June 2016, Trump said he was revising his plan, and would suspend immigration from areas with "proven history of terrorism against the United States, Europe or our allies, until we fully understand how to end these threats."
Given statements about banning Muslims from coming to the United States and the attacks some already in the country are facing, Clinton’s comment about their presence in the country dating back hundreds of years seemed relevant.
Clinton’s campaign pointed us to a Feb. 9, 2015, opinion piece in the New York Times by Peter Manseau, who has written about American history and religions.
"No matter how anxious people may be about Islam, the notion of a Muslim invasion of this majority-Christian country has no basis in fact," Manseau’s New York Times piece said. "Moreover, there is an inconvenient footnote to the assertion that Islam is anti-American: Muslims arrived here before the founding of the United States — not just a few, but thousands."
Muslims have been "overlooked because they were not free to practice their faith," Manseau wrote.
Manseau’s piece discusses a man called Estevanico who was raised in Azemmour, a Moroccan city that was once a "Muslim stronghold against European invasion." In 1528, an enslaved Estevanico and Spanish explorers were shipwrecked near present-day Galveston, Texas. Estevanico eventually escaped his Christian captors and lived in the Southwest, Manseau wrote.
In the 1700s, Louisiana plantation owners "made it a point to add enslaved Muslims to their labor force, relying on their experience with the cultivation of indigo and rice," the New York Times piece said.
Arabs in America, a project at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, also says scholars believe Estevanico was a practicing Muslim, "though he nominally converted to Catholicism to appease his Spanish masters."
The Clinton campaign also sent over a Q&A page on Tolerance.org about Muslims that says they arrived in America more than 400 years ago as slaves and that many practiced their faith in secret. They also pointed to a PBS feature on Islam in America that says 10 to 15 percent of African slaves were believed to be Muslims.
Experts also backed up Clinton’s claim.
Kambiz GhaneaBassiri, a professor of religion and humanities at Reed College, also noted that the National Portrait Gallery includes a portrait of Yarrow Mamout, identified as an African-American Muslim man and former slave.
"His portrait reminds us that Muslims have been a part of the fabric of this nation since the beginning," Kim Sajet, director of the National Portrait Gallery, said in a July 2016 press statement when it was announced the portrait would be added as part of the museum’s annual rotations.
Scholars also referred us to a post about the Founding Fathers and Islam by James H. Hutson, chief of the Manuscript Division at the Library of Congress.
"Readers may be surprised to learn that there may have been hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Muslims in the United States in 1776 — imported as slaves from areas of Africa where Islam flourished," Hutson wrote. "Although there is no evidence that the Founders were aware of the religious convictions of their bondsmen, it is clear that the Founding Fathers thought about the relationship of Islam to the new nation and were prepared to make a place for it in the republic."
Washington said he would welcome Muslims to Mount Vernon (his home) "if they were ‘good workmen’," Hutson said. Washington also "suggested a way for Muslims to ‘obtain proper relief’ " from a proposed bill in Virginia levying taxes to aid Christian worship, according to Hutson.
The post goes on to detail how the Founding Fathers in 1780 made sure the Constitution afforded "the most ample liberty of conscience … to Deists, Mahometans, Jews and Christians’," Hutson wrote.
"I think that what Secretary Clinton was suggesting by her reference to George Washington was that not only have Muslims lived in the U.S. for centuries, but that our Founding Fathers — not only George Washington but also Thomas Jefferson, Richard Henry Lee, and the men who wrote the 1780 Massachusetts Constitution — believed that Muslims should be free to practice their own religion, and they tried to guarantee this freedom and protect it in some of our Founding documents," said Jan Ellen Lewis, a history professor at Rutgers University who has contributed $700 to Clinton’s campaign.
Clinton said, "We've had Muslims in America since George Washington."
History scholars, studies and information from the Library of Congress say Muslims have been in the United States for hundreds of years, certainly dating back to Washington. Though Muslims were brought to America as slaves from Africa, experts believe many were not able to freely practice their religion. The Founding Fathers eventually outlined freedom of religion, among other rights.
We rate Clinton’s statement True.https://www.sharethefacts.co/share/fd34051a-01fa-4dc3-9b47-92ed4686a783
Medium, PolitiFact second presidential debate annotation, Oct. 9, 2016
Email exchange, Hillary Clinton Campaign, Oct. 10, 2016
The Washington Post, Yarrow Mamout, a freed Muslim slave, takes his place among presidents and generals at National Portrait Gallery, Aug. 11, 2016
Library of Congress, Founding Fathers and Islam
WhiteHouse.gov, George Washington profile
PolitiFact, Trump: Clinton won't use the term 'radical Islamic terrorists', Oct. 9, 2016
Pew Research Center, Muslims and Islam: Key findings in the U.S. and around the world, July 22, 2016
Pew Research Center, The Future of World Religions: Population Growth Projections, 2010-2050, April 2, 2015
Donald Trump campaign website, statement on Muslim immigration, Dec. 7, 2015
Time, Donald Trump’s Speech on the Orlando Shooting, June 13, 2016
The New York Times, F.B.I. Treating San Bernardino Attack as Terrorism Case, Dec. 4, 2015
The New York Times, Attacks in Paris
The New York Times, Crimes Against Muslim Americans and Mosques Rise Sharply, Dec. 17, 2015
The New York Times, The Muslims of Early America, Feb. 9, 2015
University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Arabs in America
Tolerance.org, American Muslims in the United States
PBS, Islam in America
National Portrait Gallery, Portrait of Yarrow Mamout on View at the National Portrait Gallery, July 14, 2016
Email interview, Kambiz GhaneaBassiri, a professor of religion and humanities at Reed College, Oct. 11, 2016
Email interview, Jan Ellen Lewis, a history professor at Rutgers University, Oct. 10, 2016
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