New York’s Most Prominent Muslim

In light of the recent furore over the Islamic Cultural Center, it was startling to discover that Lady Liberty not only faces east towards Mecca, but she was originally Muslim.  In Power, Faith and Fantasy, Michael Oren’s wonderful book about U.S. engagement in the Middle East since 1776, he describes Frederic Bartholdi’s original inspiration for the statue.  It was to depict an Egyptian peasant woman, twice as tall as the Sphinx, holding aloft a torch of freedom and stand at the entrance to the newly completed Suez Canal.  After Bartholdi had produced many drawings and terra-cotta models, however, Egypt’s ruler, Khedive Isma’il, ran out of money.  Distraught, according to Oren, Bartholdi took a consolation cruise to the United States.  As he sailed into New York harbor, he noticed “egg-shaped Bedloe’s Island” and instantly decided on the new spot for his statue.  There she now stands, New York’s most prominent Muslim since 1886.


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9 Responses to “New York’s Most Prominent Muslim”

  1. rebeccahirsch Says:

    Take that!

  2. The Statue of Liberty and Her Muslim Roots - Says:

    […] History, after all, never provides a straightforward narrative. Remember that even further back, and even farther south and west, the Statue of Liberty, beacon of Enlightenment values and symbol of the nation’s commitment to welcoming the less fortunate from foreign lands, was first conceived as an Egyptian peasant woman. It’s in this context that at least one writer has taken to calling her “New York’s most prominent Muslim.” […]

  3. lisad Says:

    wow, an american symbol, who is really an muslim woman with an inscription at her base written by an american jewish socialist.

  4. Cathy Says:

    The author is mixing up the story of the Statue of Liberty with a previously proposed lighthouse project for the Suez Canal that did not get past the planning stage. Liberty is based on the Roman goddess Libertas and is clearly in the Western tradition of a female embodying the ideals and identity of the nation like France’s Marianne. The idea that Liberty is Muslim is also blasphemy since it is idol worship and depictions of people are forbidden in Islamic art. Also, the idea that the law can come from the will of the people is blasphemy, the idea that people are equal is an idea contrary to Islamic teaching. This rewriting of history to make Islam more prominent is getting rather ridiculous.

    • Leila Says:

      Cathy , where did you come up with”the idea that people are equal is an idea contrary to Islamic teaching,” ? just pulled it out of you deeply prejudice mind. Islam stood for equality, when Mohammed came to Madina to declare his religion he had bought and freed a slave named Balal. He appointed him to be the first moazanin to recite the call for prayer. To put in a prospective that you can understand is- as if President Lincoln, chose a black slave to be his vice President.
      That is the level of equality Islam bestow to individuals.

      • Cathy Says:

        Leila, the post was about the Statue of Liberty, the symbol of democracy. Democracy, the will of the people to choose their government, is counter to the teachings of Islam as there can be no higher authority than the Quran in Islam. In democracies all are equal under the law; under Islamic governments, non-Moslems do not have the same legal status as Moslems, creating second and third class citizens. Women, of course, have no rights of self determination at all, they are the wards of their fathers, husbands or sons.

  5. Vox St. Mauriti Says:

    With the help of Sir Robert Graves, the well known British scholar of classical mythology, one of the ways in which this kind of Islamaphobia has been kept at arms length in the UK is the claim by the Queen’s Heralds at Arms that Her Majesty, through one of her Spanish lines is a descendant of the Prophet, Mohammed, himself. Perhaps it might help if New Yorkers were reminded that many of the city’s “Four Hundred,” including families such as the Vanderbilts and the Whitneys, can trace their ancestry to Anthony Van Salee, the first Muslim inhabitant of New Amsterdam. Like the Fellahin woman on which Bartholdi based his original concept for the Khedive of Egypt, Van Salee’s Moroccan mother was black. Considering the contributions of his descendants to the city’s history, he would be my nomination for New York’s most prominent Muslim.

  6. Dot Vogel Says:

    Out here in Oregon I don’t give a fig for your mania. Wasn’t it enough you got us into a stupid war and a budget disaster with your outrage? How frikking long do we have to bow before ground zero?

    enough already!

  7. Minaret of Freedom Weblog » News and Analysis (9/22/10) Says:

    […] sculptor Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi originally intended the Statue of Liberty (“New York’s most prominent Muslim”) to be placed at the entrance to the Suez […]

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