U.S. - Muslim Relations
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Dr. Margaret Manchester is an Assistant Professor and Department Chair of History at Providence College.
Did the United States declare 'war on Islam', during the Barbary Wars of the early 19th century? A recent article from the Tampa Bay Times asked the question and found that historians of that period say that religion was not a significant factor in the Barbary Wars.
According to the article, at the end of the 18th century leading into the 19th century, Muslim pirates were the terror of the Mediterranean. They attacked every ship in sight, and held the crews for exorbitant ransoms. These extortionists of the high seas represented the Islamic nations of Tripoli, Tunis, Morocco, and Algiers -- collectively referred to as the Barbary Coast.
Initially, the U.S. decided to pay tribute. But American leaders, including Thomas Jefferson (who was U.S. Minister to France), seethed at having to do it, saying it would only inspire more and more outrageous financial demands.
After Jefferson became president in 1801, he rejected Tripoli's demand for payment. The pasha of Tripoli countered by declaring war on the U.S. Jefferson sent forces to the Mediterranean, and after sporadic combat, hostilities ended four years later with a negotiated settlement.
Dr. Margaret Manchester, Assistant Professor of History at Providence College, says Jefferson was very tolerant and his vision of a diverse America included Jews and Muslims.
Meet Our Expert:
Dr. Margaret Manchester,
assistant professor of history
and department chair;
Teaching at PC since 1994
Selected Courses Taught:
History of Modern Middle East
American Diplomatic History
Seminar: The West in the American Imagination