#IndigenousFaith #Iroquois #Tuscarora #Seneca: Reviving the Classical Wisdom of #Islam in the #Cherokee Tradition!

Reviving the Classical Wisdom of Islam in the Cherokee Tradition | Dr. Robert Crane | Al-Huda

We’ve Come a Long Way!

On September 21, 2004, the Museum of the American Indian is to open on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., after a highly successful fund-raising drive, largely among Native American tribal leaders.  This culminates a history of false starts and false pretenses.

As the founding Executive Vice President of the American Indian National Bank in 1974, and subsequently as President of its consulting arm, The Native American Economic Development Corporation, I participated in one of these early efforts to create a national museum for Native Americans.  Unfortunately, this initiative was for them and not by them and for a hostile agenda. 

The bank itself was a creature of three of the big “seven sisters” oil companies.  I discovered this too late after I had hand-carried $2,000 in cash from Peter McDonald, the new, charismatic, and revolutionary head of the Navajo Nation, as the initial capital to meet the deadline for incorporation in the District of Colombia.  In the official photo of the original AINB Board of Directors, I am standing next to the president of the bank, Barney Old Coyote (Montana Crow), who was honest but had been carefully selected, and the chairman, W.W. Keeler, Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation, who was a former CEO of Phillips Petroleum Company.  Within a year I was out on my ear.

My special interest was in commemorating the tradition of what we today might call broad-based capital ownership in the means of production, because Native Americans, more than most others, work most effectively not as hourly laborers but as owners of their own enterprises.  This, however, was the precise opposite of the Bank’s dictated strategy.  The purpose of the Bank, as stated then by Marvin  L. Franklyn, Assistant to the Secretary for Indian Affairs (who today would be entitled Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Indian Affairs), was to provide employment of Indians (read “cheap labor” by “wage slaves”) for private firms (read “colonial exploiters”), and to transfer the billion-plus dollars of funds (the exact amount was secret) held in trust by the BIA to big New York banks at half the prime rate of interest (better than the 0% earned previously) for reinvestment de facto by the oil companies.

The purpose of the Bank, I recommended, and of its consulting arm should be what President Nixon himself, with a little help from me, called “Red Power,” consisting of all-Indian-owned firms in such fields as energy and high technology, as originally urged by the visionary Paul Bernal, the spiritual leader of Taos Pueblo, and backed by Wendell Chino, the highly respected leader of the Jicarilla Apaches, and the legendary Bob Jim, leader of the Yakima and a member of the original AINB board until his tragic and untimely death.  The executives of the International Bank of Washington, which in fact controlled the board of the American Indian National Bank, told me, “You are talking Chinese.” I explained that the purpose of Indian-owned economic power is to strengthen the inherent sovereignty of the Indian nations and revive their spiritual wisdom to strengthen America.  The oil company and International Bank officials curtly informed me, “You have got it all backwards.”

    Similarly, the American Indian Museum to be sponsored by the Bank was to serve the agenda of the three special interest groups that controlled the Department of the Interior, namely, minerals, timber, and cattle, in order to keep Native Americans in their place, exploit their natural resources, and maintain the original cultures of America as quaint vestiges of an irrelevant past.

    Much has happened in the ensuing thirty years as a result of the still hesitant national liberation movements in Indian country.  When asked in January, 2004, what the purpose of the new Museum of the American Indian is, its director affirmed that every display and every project and every part of the museum is to affirm the constitutional sovereignty of Native American nations and to preserve their spiritual heritage for future generations.

The Heritage of the Ani Waya

    Of the original seven Cherokee clans, three were officially disestablished by the federal government in 1905, when the Cherokee system of representative government was abolished in favor of a single chief appointed by the President of the United States and when the Cherokee religion was declared to be subversive and was officially abolished.  One of these three was the Ani Waya, which means Clan of the Wolf.  The function of this clan was to preserve the religion and the traditions.

After the loss of the written tradition, the oral history of the Cherokee religion passed down through the Ani Waya to what are called the traditionalists, including my great uncle Joseph Franklin Bever (who had another name in Oklahoma).  He was one of the last formally trained Cherokee imams.  He called the Athan every morning, but when challenged he replied simply that he was calling the hogs.  Like all Cherokees, he started every prayer with “Ya Allah.”  All the prophets, starting with Abraham, are honored in the tradition.  Until 1895, the Cherokees held the hajj, with tawaf, on the land of Uncle Henry Bever (spelled Beaver among the Oklahoma Ani Waya) three miles southwest of Hillsboro, Indiana.  The last custodian of this sacred land lived nearby when I lived a mile away until shortly after Pearl Harbor. 

Until the last hajj, Cherokees came all the way from Oklahoma to attend, but only those with native fluency in Cherokee were permitted to participate, including my great-grandmother, who was born seven years after the forced migration in 1839, known as the Trail of Tears, from North Carolina and Georgia to Oklahoma.  She helped raise me.  The last of those who were trained by my great uncle is Ben Mitman, my second cousin, who lives in Indianapolis and is now in his mid-nineties but, like most of my family in their advanced age, is still hale and hearty.  My great grandmother, who spoke only Cherokee after she announced that it was time to die, had coal black hair down to her waist when she was in her nineties.  We have a home video of another of my great grandmothers dancing at the age of ninety-six at one of the last great Bever-Crane clan reunions.

For the Cherokees, the Trail of Tears was the last of the great acts of ethnic cleansing that began with the American Revolution.  The first period of genocide came when the younger generation sided with the British against the encroaching American settlers.  The older traditionalists opposed war in principle and refused to be pawns in foreign wars.  Although the wisdom of the traditionalists eventually triumphed in a feeble cultural renaissance after the American Revolution, this strategy of what Gandhi called satyagraha failed in the end.  In 1839, despite the decision of the U.S. Supreme Court under Chief Justice John Marshal that Cherokee sovereignty was higher than that of the State of Georgia, the president of the United States ordered the U.S. Army to drive the Cherokees in the middle of winter all the way to Oklahoma.

Although reportedly a third of them died en route while the federal troops watched, not all of this third actually died.  Three groups broke off from the Trail of Tears, one going to Ohio and two to Indiana, because they feared extermination once they would arrive in Oklahoma.  The Cherokee religion was best preserved for more than a century in an isolated Indiana group, because the Christian and U.S. governmental drive to stamp out the Cherokee religion in Oklahoma had significant success.  My great uncle went from the other Indiana group near Hillsboro, Indiana, in 1903 at the age of 22 down to Oklahoma, where the formal religious training was headquartered.

In 1905, after he had studied for two years at the seminary there, the U.S. government abolished the Cherokee religion and imprisoned everyone who performed the salah publically. The Katoowa Society was formed to fight back, but they were crushed.  My great uncle then spent two years trying to organize all the Native American tribes to fight for religious freedom, but despite some interest among the Navajo, Hopi, Crow, and Blackfeet, he failed miserably and so went back to Indiana where I knew him as a boy.  I was impressed because he knew the names of 269 plants.

Pre-Columbian History

The true knowers of the Cherokee religion have kept it secret.  The traditionalists who live isolated in the woods of western Arkansas and eastern Oklahoma told me when I was last there thirty years ago as a personal emissary of President Nixon that when anthropologists come to study the religion, the traditionalists entertain them with a bunch of nonsense and then whoop with laughter when they see this nonsense printed in scholarly books. 

According to the traditionalists, the Cherokee religion came in the form of a book that was brought in a great fleet of ships out of the east when the Cherokees lived on an island where it was never cold.  After three generations, the bad people from the south killed almost everyone on all the islands and destroyed the book.  The remainder of the Cherokees immigrated west to the Great Land. 

Their mass migration from a tropical island in the Caribbean to the Yucatan Peninsula in the late 1300s was verified by the leading Meso-American archeologist, T. B. Irving (Al Hajji Ta’alim Ali).  He was the only person who had recorded the relevant inscriptions.  Twenty years ago, he said he would write up this history, but he died last year without ever doing so.  I have visited the Yucatan and asked other Mesoamerican archeologists about this history, but they know nothing about it.

After some more generations, the number of which I have forgotten, the bad people attacked again.  This time the Cherokees all migrated north and eastwards to find the lost book, because they knew that it came out of the east.  This is the origin story according to the Ani Waya clan.

What this all means is open to modern research and interpretation.  There is now thorough documentation of a great expedition of da’wa that the Emir of Mali, Abu Bakr, sent across the Atlantic in 1310 A.C. after he met Chinese Muslims in the hajj.  Scholars do not seem to be clear on whether he was hoping to bring Islam to China or to America, because there is evidence that at least two earlier Muslim expeditions had visited America, one in 1100 going westward from Africa and the other in 1178 eastward from China.  When the first expedition did not return, Emir Abu Bakr sent a second expedition two years later in 1312, reportedly including Mandinga members from what is now Liberia.  The detailed manifests of each of the Emir’s ships are now of historical record.

In recent years hidden libraries have been found in Timbuktu on the southern edge of the Sahara Desert in Mali.  I attended a conference in Mali’s capital Bamako in 1999 but could not get permission to travel the 200 miles north to Timbuktu, because, I was told, the French-influenced government in Bamako wants to hide its great Islamic past.  These libraries should be micro-filmed while they still exist in order to compare the practices of popular Islam with those of the Cherokees.

Although the customs of several tribes, some archeological evidence, and ethno-linguistic analysis give circumstantial evidence of this early presence of Islam in America, the only oral tradition, as far as I know, comes from my own ancestors in the Ani Waya tribe of the Cherokee.  We are not supposed to interpret tradition, because this can introduce distortions, but the ancient Cherokee traditions of what is called simply the “people” (Ani Yunwiya) coincide with the devastating attacks by the Caribs from what is now Venezuela at the end of the 1300s.  And Mayan inscriptions of the next century record the arrival of a great people from the east.  The details about this people may be buried in the personal papers of the Muslim translator of the Qur’an, T. B. Irving.  Early evidence of Islam may be found only by scholars who are specifically looking for it.

The Modern Period

The history of the Cherokees after they arrived in the Carolinas is part of modern America, but it is not much clearer than their history in the earlier period, despite a wealth of documentary material and shelves of books on the subject.

Historians acknowledge that the Cherokees when first encountered by Europeans lived in large towns of several thousand people with two story brick buildings and an advanced system of legislative, executive, and judicial government.  They also acknowledge that within two hundred years from 1600 to 1800 their population had been reduced to only a fraction of what it had been.  This was part of the universal history of European colonialism, which managed to reduce the total native population in America from at least ten million to as little as a few hundred thousand.  With this catastrophic disruption came a similar loss of their religious and cultural heritage, including, in the case of the Cherokees, the dilution of authentic Islam.  

Some Western anthropologists have speculated that the Cherokee religion with its emphasis on a sophisticated divine law and system of government may derive from a lost Jewish tribe, but this may be merely an attempt by Christian missionaries to hide the Cherokees’ true Islamic identity.

Perhaps the best, recent research may be found in the book by Thomas E. Mails, The Cherokee People: The Story of the Cherokees from Earliest Origins to Contemporary Times, published by Marlow and Company.  Mails leads the others in his conclusion that the remarkable similarities between the Abrahamic religions and the traditional Cherokee religion precede any possibility of adoption from European influences.

    Like the others, however, he concludes that such similarities must come from the ancient Hebrews.  This probably stems from his ignorance of Islam and his familiarity with the commonalities with the Jews in the Cherokee origin stories, including Adam and Eve, the flood, the Tower of Babel, Abraham, the crossing of the Red Sea, Moses, the wandering in the wilderness, and the ark.  It is difficult to understand how he can ignore the fact that the traditionalist Cherokees started every prayer with Ya Allah and prayed five times a day and fasted during Ramadhan, though it is understandable that Mails does not know the Cherokee rituals of the Hajj, since these have been kept highly secret. 

    Unfortunately, only a knowledgeable Muslim would be able to mine the wealth of very difficult source material to compare this with Islam.  The major original source, since the Cherokees had lost their written language long before they moved to what is now the United States, is the fourteen volume collection known as the John Howard Payne Papers, Ayer MS 689, in the Ayer Collection of Americana, Newberry Library of the University of Chicago.  These are in miniscule handwriting and in script that is very difficult to decipher.  The Payne papers are by Payne and by a couple of others who authored individual chapters, especially Daniel Sabin Butrick, who was a Christian missionary to the Cherokees from 1817 to 1847.

In another file on the Cherokees that probably is in my sister’s historic stone barn in the Blue Ridge mountains of Virginia, I have reference to a typewritten copy of the Payne originals prepared by his great granddaughter.  She spent an entire year turning the almost illegible manuscript into readable copy.  Payne, who lived from 1791 to 1852, unlike Butrick, was sympathetic to the Cherokees.  His informants among the Cherokees were born as early as 1735 at a time when contact with outsiders had barely begun.  Payne was a poet by trade and lived with the Cherokees during the period of their successful effort to gain U.S. Supreme Court acceptance of their sovereignty and their unsuccessful effort thereafter to stop their removal to Oklahoma.  One would have to examine the so-called Payne papers to determine what may be authentic scholarship on the Cherokees and what was propaganda and spin to demean them.  My impression is that the unexpurgated Payne writings are available to whoever can find them or at least were until forty years ago.  In all research on the wisdom of Islam in the Cherokee religion, one must beware of a long history of cultural genocide.

The earliest account of the Cherokees was James Adair’s The History of the American Indians.  He was a trader with the Cherokees in 1736 and first pointed out the identity of the Cherokee religion with Abrahamic sources.  In 1888, James Mooney’s Myths of the Cherokee and Sacred Formulas of the Cherokees does not discuss these origins but does treat in detail Cherokee astronomy, which he learned about from Cherokees who were born as early as 1800.  Other books, such as Haywood’s of 1823 and Washburn’s of 1869 should be compared with the more recent books, such as The Eastern Cherokees by William Harlen Gilbert, Jr. and others, which are stored, together with my most valuable books, in my sister’s barn.

The more recent books in some ways are more objective, but the definitive history of the Cherokees, and especially analysis of the relation of Islam to the founding of America has yet to be written.  This is the task of young American-born Muslims, because they know that other Americans fear what they do not know and that this history would show that Islam is not foreign to America.

The Original Founders of Modern America
The Cherokee were Grandfathers of the Great American Experiment in the holistic symbiosis of order, justice, and liberty.  Jefferson said that he borrowed the American system of government from the Iroquois confederation.  If the Cherokee religion and political culture were introduced into America by Muslim settlers from North Africa two hundred years before Columbus “discovered ” America, then it remains to be researched whether the Iroquois system of representative government comes from the Cherokee nation.

Jefferson was familiar with the Iroquois and maintained contact with the leaders of a great religious revival among the Iroquois from about 1800 to 1810.  He spent some time with their greatest religious leader, known as Handsome Lake of the Seneca, and not only corresponded with him but invited him twice to the White House.  The details are in The Death and Rebirth of the Seneca by Anthony F C Wallace, Vintage, 1972, 395 pages. 

The origin of this religious rebirth, like that of the coeval rebirth among the Cherokee further south, lay in their response to the destruction of the native way of life by the white settlers, especially by the introduction of alcohol and gambling, and by the destruction of the nuclear family and of moral community.  It was also a reaction against the missionary efforts of the Christians who wanted the Iroquois to assimilate into Western society and disappear.  Handsome Lake was convinced that his people could not adopt Christianity without adopting everything bad about Western society along with it.

Part of the spiritual quest by young American Muslims today should be to explore whether the religion that he revived was Islam as borrowed from the Cherokee, who had been adopted under the tribal name of Tuscarora into the Iroquois confederacy.  By the year 1500, the Cherokee had established a vast trading empire in eastern North America, and a portion of them, known as the Tuscarora, moved from North Carolina to Iroquois country before the arrival of the first European settlers.  The Tuscarora who lived with the Iroquois were the first to adopt Christianity as their religion, but the original religion of the Tuscarora was not the ancient Iroquois religion but Islam.  This origin of the Seneca rebirth was not known to Wallace, but he recounts in detail the revival of this religion and Jefferson’s admiration of it.

The specifically Islamic sources of the Iroquois revival and much of Native American religion might be revealed only by knowledgeable people specifically looking for it.  Historians seem to have neglected obvious indicators referred to by modern Cherokee traditionalists in urban America.  For example, according to research by the Cherokee-Blackfoot Muslim, Mahir Abdal-Razaaq, who is a Pipe Carrier for the Northeastern Band, the Treaty of Peace and Friendship that was signed on the Delaware river in 1787 bore the signatures of Abdul Haqq [spelled Abdel Khak] and Muhammad ibn Abdullah. 

According to an article in The Message, published by the Islamic Society of North America, in July, 1996, the last Cherokee chief with a Muslim name was Ramadhan ibn Wati, who lived from 1806 to 1871 and governed during the time of the great split between the Union Cherokee and the Confederate Cherokee in the American Civil War.  Chief (Emir) Ramadhan was a Confederate brigadier general who shared the South’s opposition to the encroaching power of the industrialized North.  He surrendered his command to President Lincoln on June 23, 1865, and his young son, Saladin Watie, named after the famous liberator of Jerusalem in 1187, Salah al Din, served in the Southern Cherokee delegation to sign a treaty of surrender in Washington, D.C.

The traditionalist Cherokee political system was based on governance from the bottom up, rather than from the top down as was common in Europe.  The ultimate sovereign was Allah and he governed through the individual members of the Cherokee nation, each of whom carried the amana to be a representative of the divine on earth.  The nation was composed of autonomous bands or clans, such as the Ani Waya.  The members of each band chose their leaders through a system of indirect election of at least four communities.  One community represented the warriors, one the religious leaders, and one the merchants.  The fourth I believe may have been the judicial community.  These four elected leaders in turn elected the head of the band, and the heads of the bands elected the leader of the nation.

This system today is known as constitutional or republican federalism.  It contrasts with the system of absolutist democracy bound by popular majority rule, which all of America’s founders condemned as inherently unjust and dangerous.

In times of trouble, women rose to prominence, especially to arbitrate between the young warriors who wanted to risk the lives of their sons and the elders who preached non-violence in all except the greatest threats to group survival.  This matriarchal custom still existed at the time of the American Revolutionary War, according to Theda Perdue’s “Cherokee Women and the Trail of Tears,” published in Journal of Women’s History, vol 1, 1989, pp. 14-17.  But, the butchering of the Cherokees by the American settlers and their abandonment by the British undercut the traditionalists and nearly destroyed the entire set of cultural traditions that had survived for centuries since the time of the origins in the Caribbean.  This period of Cherokee history, which exceeds in its tragedy even that of the Trail of Tears, and the role of the Cherokee women is described in Tom Hatley’s book, The Dividing Paths: Cherokees and South Carolinians through the Era of the Revolution, Oxford University Press, 1993, pp. 220 ff.

The Cherokee leaders often were known by Anglo names.  The most famous was Nancy Ward, who was known as the principal Ghigau of the Cherokee Nation, a term translated by the colonialists as “war-leader.”  In fact, she was the principal peace leader, as described in Norma Tucker’s article, “Nancy Ward: Ghigau of the Cherokees,” in Georgia Historical Quarterly, vol. 53, 1969. 

She persuaded the Raven of Chota, who was the war leader of the principal Cherokee town, to seek peace.  As the official emissary of the entire nation, she persuaded Jefferson’s emissary, Arthur Campbell, to declare an armistice or truce prior to the signing of a peace treaty.  Unfortunately, according to Campbell’s own diary, “I wished first to visit the vindictive part of the nation … and to destroy the whole as much as possible by destroying their habitations and provisions.”  Although he had spared Chota in the past out of respect for Nancy Ward, he attacked in the middle of winter and commenced to destroy a thousand houses, fifty thousand bushels of corn, and all but a few small towns. 

The Raven of Chota reported later, as recorded in O’Donnell, Southern Indians in the American Revolution, pp. 118-119, the Virginians “dyed their hands in the blood of many of our women and children, burnt 17 towns, and destroyed all our provisions by which we and our families were almost destroyed by famine this Spring.”

Jefferson was a Virginia politician so he did what was politically correct.  But, at the same time, he was impressed by the Cherokee traditionalists, including the women leaders at the time of their maximum tragedy, who tried to practice what Mahatma Gandhi called satyagraha or peaceful defense based on spiritual power.  This is a well established practice in Islamic history, but needs much further research.

The Iroquois adopted the best of the Cherokee religion, and this is what most impressed Jefferson in later years.  The religion as revived by Handsome Lake opposed both cultural assimilation, which is suicide, and cultural nativism, which is the continuation of a culture based on worship of one’s own ethnic group rather than on the enlightened understanding of divine revelation and natural law.  According to Wallace’s book, The Death and Rebirth of the Seneca, Handsome Lake’s primary message consisted of four basic principles:

1) All people came from the same source, a transcendent God, and thus are equal in dignity.

2) All religions are legitimate paths to God.  Therefore one should not blame the Christians for not accepting the divine revelation that he was reviving.  They should follow their religion until they understand that the religion that he was reviving teaches a truer knowledge of God.

3) Violence results from ignorance of true religion.  Therefore knowledge is the most powerful weapon against war, and war is almost never the best solution to conflict. And

4) More important than knowledge is love of the transcendent God, because love is the path to knowledge.

Much research remains to be done to connect Jefferson’s then unique concept of federalism with Islamic concepts of religious and political pluralism.  The efforts of both the Cherokees and Iroquois to conduct interfaith meetings with the Europeans as equals impressed the Christian missionaries, since such interfaith outreach without any effort to convert others was almost unknown in the Christian world. 

Jefferson tried to keep his personal relationship with God secret and largely succeeded, though recent research in his twenty volumes of hitherto secret personal correspondence should shed much light on this, including the influence of Islam. 

Perhaps his major message was the same as that taught by the Cherokee and Iroquois.  No people, he said, can remain free unless they are educated;  education consists above all in knowledge of virtue; and no people can remain virtuous except within a religious framework, whether it be Christian or of some other faith tradition, and unless this framework of respect for the divine legitimacy of cultural and religious pluralism and for the power of interfaith cooperation pervades all public life. 

This is the profound wisdom of the Great American Experiment, but we have just begun to explore its ancient roots.




Dr Robert Dickson Crane
Dr Robert D. Crane, who was an adviser to late US President Richard Nixon and a former deputy director of the US National Security Council, embraced Islam in the 1980s.

Let Muslims be like Franciscans, espousing faith Interview with Dr. Robert D. Crane | JOHN MARY | DECCAN CHRONICLE | 18 Dec 2019

A totalitarian system would reduce the possibility of a confederation of peoples.

The US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has recommended sanctions against Union home minister Amit Shah for his stewardship the Citizenship Amendment Bill, which introduces religion as a criterion for citizenship. What does it mean to India?
Leave aside technicalities, I’m sure this (the USCIRF stand) will be a help to the people of India to fulfil the vision of Mahatma Gandhi to build a true confederation of peoples. The opposite of the confederation is a single ruler, who could have an electoral system, but decisions are made independent of that. A totalitarian system would reduce the possibility of a confederation of peoples.

The Supreme Court verdict in the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute case in Ayodhya has caused dismay to many people, not just Muslims, because the court upheld “faith over facts” in settling the dispute in favour of a temple in place of the masjid. Most Muslims have taken it in their stride, for the sake of peace. Would you advise acceptance or back those who still opt for litigation?
I am with those who accept the verdict and have decided to move on. The advantage is that this gives India and its people time to understand their religion. Do you understand the enlightened source of authority in Hinduism, of responsibilities of people because human rights don’t exist by themselves? What are the responsibilities of Hindus in Hinduism? That’s the ultimate question.

How can minority communities navigate the choppy waters of majoritarianism, especially when the ruling dispensation blatantly pushes the Hindutva agenda?
Stay away from those who attack Islam and Muslims. Have a positive message. If you focus on Islamophobia, you are also popularising Islamophobia. I deleted 100 pages from my book, on Islamophobes, because I thought I still popularised them. Don’t get upset by what’s going on now to the extent that you give up. It could take generations for India to return to its founding principles. Educate the youth. We are not going to determine the future of America or India, the younger people will and it depends on education.

Given your vast knowledge of different religions and finally embracing Islam, what advice would you give to minorities in a multi-religious nation?
Minorities have a choice; one is to assimilate, which I would argue is suicide of your cultural identity. The other is to integrate, but integration is often taken to be the same thing (assimilate). But I would say integration means the opposite; you bring in the best of your religion and culture to the nation. It’s mutual cooperation, learning from each other. Most of the Muslims in America choose between assimilation and integration without distinguishing between the two. In Catholicism, there are two solutions. One is the Benedict option. St Benedict, at the end of the Roman Empire, found himself monasteries to maintain the religion. The second is the Franciscan option; you take the best of your religion and best of all that you have and preach from housetops. That’s what Muslims should do. But don’t attack anybody in the process.

Does the American experience with tackling racial discrimination offer any lessons for caste and religious discrimination in India, the legacy of centuries of invasions?
A little bit of history here. Slaveholders in America realised that with the advent of machines, it was uneconomic to maintain slaves and their families. Then Abraham Lincoln was able to outlaw slavery. But the problem was slaves were now citizens like everybody else! Once you accept human beings as nonhuman beings, how do you change that? I think we in the US had made a lot of progress. The lesson for India is to educate its youth, who should be trained in the paradigm of arts against others who would want to manage paradigms of power; they will control everything, including human thought, through the tool of artificial intelligence.

Do you think the rest of the world is intolerant of Islam and wary of Muslims as in experiencing Islamophobia?
Yes, it is only because of reasons from their point of view; there are a lot of radical Muslims in different parts of the world. They are reacting to oppression. In the US, we don’t think we oppress anybody. But they just hate us. We can’t understand why they become radicals. I mean ISIS doesn’t give a damn about anything, they say they will destroy everything as they refuse to accept oppression. In America, the military thinks there is a military solution to every problem. But the fact is military does not solve problems, rather creates them.

Islam is a religion of love and peace but why does it beget extreme violence in its so-called followers? Has Islam a paradigm to tackle terrorism?
The radical wing of Muslims sees political power as the ultimate goal in life. In practice, power is what they want. When some youth thought that the Muslim Brotherhood was not radical enough, they left and formed Al Qaeda and those who thought Al Qaeda was not radical formed ISIS; you can’t get any more radical than ISIS. I would blame the Sufis to some extent. Sufis followed the Benedict option as in Christianity; they stayed away from public life. For about 600 years until recently, the Sufis stayed away, the intellectuals sympathised with them but the essence of Islam disappeared. The Sufis should have been active in public life, like the Franciscans. I think they will have to do it again. They are growing rapidly all over the world but they aren’t influencing public life much as yet.    

Is it not a fact that Judaic religions are strident, as manifest in their proselytising agenda, and this aggravates frictions in a multi-religious milieu?
Religion is misused as a tool for power. Look at Confucianism, which has been both a religion and political tool. I think the Chinese will promote Confucianism around the world and they have 3,000 Confucian centres, financed by the Communist government. So it isn’t that Abrahamic religions alone are used for political purposes; all religions have their temptation. But I don’t associate the Jews with trying convert people. Most Christians believe that if you don’t believe in Jesus, you will go to hell. So they convert people. I don’t think Islam tried to convert anybody. Islam, in a classical sense, better reflects human nature.

You think the UAE brand of moderation will help in spreading the concept of a middle path? Does it have a major role to play?
The word moderation is misleading. Moderation means ‘I’m in the middle, I don’t support anything’. Rather, integration is the objective. I would prefer peaceful engagement instead of moderation. Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the founding father of the UAE, was truly one of the three leading inter-faith leaders of the 20th century. It isn’t just peace you want; it’s building on peace to bring more peace.


Dr Robert D. Crane, who was an adviser to late US President Richard Nixon and a former deputy director of the US National Security Council, embraced Islam in the 1980s. In Abu Dhabi for the launch of the youth forum of the World Council of Muslim Communities, Dr Crane says, in an interview with John Mary, the Muslims in India should be like the Franciscans, who, with deep commitment, declared their convictions from the housetops rather than remaining reclusive and withdrawn from public life. That’s what Muslims should do, while eschewing violence.




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Tariq Ramadan vs Sherman Jackson: A Traditionalist Perspective on American Muslim LeadershipTariq Ramadan vs Sherman Jackson: A Traditionalist Perspective on American Muslim Leadership by Dr. Robert D. Crane   The real issue in American Muslim engagement with the American “public square” was finally “outed” by Tariq Ramadan after forty years of either incomprehension, silence, or rejection by most of the formal…08/19/14
The right side of history in IraqThe Right Side of History:  Can the Sunnis Destroy ISIS without Agreement on Three Autonomous Nations in an Iraqi Confederation? by Dr. Robert D. Crane The current crisis in Iraq is now considered to be the gravest threat to peace, prosperity,and freedom in Southwest Asia in recent times.  This crisis…06/23/14
The Natural Law of Holistic Education: Essence of Reality, Pattern of Purpose, Practice of JusticeThe Natural Law of Holistic Education: Essence of Reality, Pattern of Purpose, Practice of Justice by Dr. Robert D. Crane       The most significant conflict in the world today, beyond the beastiary of conflicts that dominate the popular media, is between traditionalist conservatives and modernist liberals.  Most significant…05/16/14
From Cairo to Kiev:  A Critique of Abdallah Schleifer’s “Flip-Flop” ArticleFrom Cairo to Kiev:  A Critique of Abdallah Schleifer’s “Flip-Flop” Article by Dr. Robert D. Crane The Russian invasion of the Crimea at the end of February, 2014, and the inability of anyone or any country in the world to do anything about it raises questions about the future of…03/03/14
Common Ground: Toward a Global Vision of a Greater SpringCommon Ground: Toward a Global Vision of a Greater Spring by Dr. Robert D. Crane I.          Forecasting and Planning through the Nazm of Fractal Tawhid           The principal limitation in human thought and action is the fragmentation of knowledge resulting from the…11/14/13
“Wipe Israel Off the Map”:  Neo-Con Propaganda Requires More than Ad Hoc Answers – update 8/4/13“Wipe Israel Off the Map”:  Neo-Con Propaganda Requires More than Ad Hoc Answers by Dr. Robert Dickson Crane   President Bush is right that we are in a war against evil, but the battle front consists in defining what evil is and in identifying its perpetrators.    The propaganda run-up…08/04/13
Interfaith Dialogue:  Part II, What and WhyInterfaith Dialogue:  Part II, What and Why by Dr. Robert D. Crane I.  Introduction The series of interviews sponsored by the Doha International Center for Interfaith Dialogue (DCID) for Ramadhan 2013 reflects an upsurge in religion all over the world.  This challenge is to shift one’s perspective on the world…07/12/13
Interfaith Dialogue: Part I, Is It Islamic?Interfaith Dialogue: Part I, Is It Islamic? by Dr. Robert D. Crane I.  Introduction Is interfaith dialogue Islamic?  Perhaps this is the first question Muslims should ask in the Qatar Foundation’s special Ramadhan series of radio interviews and scholarly follow-ups on the role of comparative religion and interfaith dialogue in…07/11/13
Muslim Leadership in the Harmony of JusticeMuslim Leadership in the Harmony of Justice Rehabilitating the Role of Religion in the World through Natural Law and Global Ethics by Dr. Robert D. Crane I.  Defining Terms The great Roman philosopher, Cicero, once said two thousand years ago that before one discusses anything whatsoever one should first define…07/09/13
Interfaith Dialogue: A Ramadan IntroductionInterfaith Dialogue: A Ramadan Introduction by Dr. Robert D. Crane I.  Introduction       The Doha International Center for Interfaith Dialogue (DCID) is sponsoring a series of twenty-five dialogue interviews for Ramadhan 2013 as part of what clearly is an upsurge in religion all over the world.  Unfortunately, the…06/26/13
Turkey’s Slippery SlopesTurkey’s Slippery Slopes by Dr. Robert D. Crane       The so-called Ottoman illusion should be popular in Turkey, but not if it requires centralization and and strengthening of governmental power.  In America we would call it the libertarian moment, which can come only in successful societies.  It calls…06/17/13
New Directions for UMMA: Why, Whither, and WhenNew Directions for UMMA: Why, Whither, and When by Dr. Robert D. Crane   The focus of the eleventh annual convention of the Universal Muslim Association of America in Dearborn, Michigan, during Memorial Day Weekend 2013 was a rousing epic of self-congratulation.  Certainly it was far above the level of…06/04/13
Russia’s 9/11 in Chechnya:  Waging Jihad against Muslims who Hijack Islam – updated 5/7/13Russia’s 9/11 in Chechnya:  Waging Jihad against Muslims who Hijack Islam by Dr. Robert Dickson Crane I.            The Causes of Chechen Terrorism On September 3rd, 2004, nationalist extremists from the Caucasus region of Russia demonstrated their demonic hatred of everything sacred by taking a thousand…05/07/13
Islamic Apologetics and Interfaith CooperationIslamic Apologetics and Interfaith Cooperation by Dr. Robert D. Crane       Academics, led by Christianity’s perhaps leading theologian, Hans Kung, and developed in his trio of 1,000-page books on Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, have introduced a new concept and issue termed essentialism.  The practical question is whether Islam…04/02/13
A Generation of Idiots?: Was Einstein Right as a Long-Range Global ForecasterA Generation of Idiots?: Was Einstein Right as a Long-Range Global Forecaster by Dr. Robert Dickson Crane       A humorous series of pictures is circulating in the internet world showing modern youth absorbed in i-phones and similar gadgets.  This is used to highlight Albert Einstein’s wisdom in his…03/15/13
Gender Ethics and Natural LawGender Ethics and Natural Law by Dr. Robert D. Crane   The question of gender ethics can be approached by exploring whether natural law is natural and to what extent.  The natural law of gender ethics is indicated in the Qur’an and modern physics.  All sentient beings live in pairs,…03/13/13
Freedom versus coercion in Islamic education, parenting, and governanceFreedom versus coercion in Islamic education, parenting, and governance by Dr. Robert D. Crane   Discussion of coercion versus freedom, whether in education or any other field, raises the issue of governance, especially through the almost diametrical opposites of democracy and a republic.  By definition, democracy is authoritarian.  The authority…03/11/13
Global Awakening:  Toward the Interfaith Harmony of Global EthicsGlobal Awakening:  Toward the Interfaith Harmony of Global Ethics by Dr. Robert D. Crane Two years after the beginning of the so-called Arab Spring, we are in a new era.  Some people call it simply the Post-Arab Spring.  Some call it the Arab Winter.  The Chinese written language has a…02/21/13
Obama and Justice: Good Guy, Bad Guy, or Both?Obama and Justice: Good Guy, Bad Guy, or Both? by Dr. Robert D. Crane I.  Where’s the Vision? President Barack Hussein Obama clearly is a man of his time, truly an American.  He is both hated and beloved even by his own supporters and for the same reasons.  Two centuries…01/26/13
Perils of Prediction and Prognosis: Have We Become a Generation of Idiots?Perils of Prediction and Prognosis: Have We Become a Generation of Idiots?  by Dr. Robert D. Crane       A humorous series of pictures is circulating in the internet world showing modern youth absorbed in i-phones and similar gadgets.  This is used to highlight Albert Einstein’s wisdom in his…01/17/13
Gang Rape and Global Ethics:  The New Challenge of Phobic OrientalismGang Rape and Global Ethics:  The New Challenge of Phobic Orientalism by Dr. Robert D. Crane   Alternet’s apology two days ago for helping an anti-Islamic attack go viral around the world raises the issue whether, in its words, “Today we have a phobic version of Orientalism—expecting and only seeing…01/04/13
Muhammad: Seeker of Compassionate JusticeMuhammad: Seeker of Compassionate Justice By Dr. Robert D. Crane         All of the billion Muslims throughout the world regard The Prophet Muhammad as a model for their own lives and as a manifestation of the divine on earth.         Unfortunately, anything of such…10/27/12
The Renaissance of Kurdistan in Syria?The Renaissance of Kurdistan in Syria? by Dr. Robert D. Crane         Potentially, the most powerful nation in the the Middle East, other than Iran, Turkey, and Egypt has always been Kurdistan, which is precisely why the colonial powers after the First World War broke it up…10/02/12
Deconstructing Ideological Approaches to the Arab SpringDeconstructing Ideological Approaches to the Arab Spring by Dr. Robert D. Crane Dogmatic approaches to reality, truth, and justice have always been common, if not predominant, in all religions over the millenia.  Imperial oppression has also always been a part of history but usually was a contributor to dogmatism, not…09/29/12
Responding to the Embassy Bombings: Freedom of Religion Requires Respect for the SacredResponding to the Embassy Bombings: Freedom of Religion Requires Respect for the Sacred by Dr. Robert D. Crane The first issue in responding to the attacks on American embassies beginning on the eleventh anniversary of 9/11 is one of cause and effect.  Did the mere appearance of the film, “The…09/21/12
Justice as Grand Strategy: The Missing Dimension in American Foreign Policy Toward the Muslim WorldJustice as Grand Strategy: The Missing Dimension in American Foreign Policy Toward the Muslim World by Dr. Robert D.Crane       The ancient Roman philosopher, Cicero, wisely advised that before one begins to discuss anything whatsoever one should first define terms.  This would apply to perspectives and entire paradigms…08/21/12
The Arab Spring and Global Ethics in an Era of Radioactive JusticeThe Arab Spring and Global Ethics in an Era of Radioactive Justice by Dr. Robert D. Crane   The International Criminal Court was created in 2002 after half a century of determined advocacy by supporters of human rights.  The purpose was to gain widespread support for a global jurisdiction designed…07/09/12
Shi’a-Phobia ExposedShi’a-Phobia Exposed by Dr. Robert D. Crane The latest in the campaign to demonize Shi’a and especially the Ithna’ashari or mainline Shi’a in Iran, Iraq, and Bahrain is the effort to claim that the Shi’a did not first develop, support, and use the human rights embodied in the Islamic normative…06/20/12
The Global Awakening: Developing a Consensus Paradigm – Part IIIThe Global Awakening: Developing a Consensus Paradigm – Part III The Global Awakening: Developing a Consensus Paradigm through a Common Language of Normative and Compassionate Justice by Dr. Robert D. Crane Part Three The Challenge of Disunity and the Response of a Paradigm Spring During the last half century as…06/06/12
The Global Awakening: Developing a Consensus Paradigm – Part IIThe Global Awakening: Developing a Consensus Paradigm through a Common Language of Normative and Compassionate Justice by Dr. Robert D. Crane Part Two Mimetic Challenges to Developing a Common Language I.          Asabiya       Four of the terms that cause the most confusion among both…06/05/12
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Paradigmatic Boxes: Beyond “Tolerance”, “Diversity”, and “Pluralism” to “Interfaith Communion”Paradigmatic Boxes: Beyond “Tolerance”, “Diversity”, and “Pluralism” to “Interfaith Communion” by Dr. Robert D. Crane (aka Faruq ‘Abd al Haqq) It seems that increasingly many people in America are stuck in paradigmatic boxes. It seems more than clear that for half a century Muslims have been among the worst offenders.…05/27/12
Forecasting and Planning the Future of the Global Muslim Umma  Forecasting and Planning the Future of the Global Muslim Umma by Dr. Robert D. Crane As a professional, long-range global forecaster, it appears to me that Muslims and, in fact, the entire world are at a juncture where individual civilizations and even the entire global civilization on earth will…05/21/12
Transformative Integration, Not AssimilationTransformative Integration, Not Assimilation by Dr. Robert D. Crane     In their fear of an Islamophobic onslaught that has made detainment camps for American Muslims and the nukeing of Makkah legitimate topics for polite discussion, some Muslims are debating whether they should flee America or at least assimilate by…05/19/12
Arab Spring: Developing Unity through a Common Language of Normative and Compassionate JusticeArab Spring:  Developing Unity through a Common Language of Normative and Compassionate Justice by Dr. Robert D. Crane Abstract   The universal principles of normative jurisprudence, known in Islam as the maqasid al shari’ah, may provide a common language for the moderate middle in the spectrum of forces that produced…04/29/12
The Real Issue in 2012: Is America a Democracy or a Republic?The Real Issue in 2012: Is America a Democracy or a Republic? by Dr. Robert D. Crane     Our foreign policy wonks have tried to brainwash the entire world to sell democracy and make sure that no-one knows America is a republic.  The result has been abject failure, because…04/18/12
Rehabilitating America as a Moral Model for the WorldRehabilitating America as a Moral Model for the World:  The Challenge for Classical American Traditionalism by Dr. Robert D. Crane     The Dean of the prestigious Claremont School of Theology in an article published on March 25th, 2012, in the Los Angeles Times reports that, according to recent surveys,…04/05/12
A Common Language for a Muslim Spring in America: Challenge and ResponseA Common Language for a Muslim Spring in America: Challenge and Response by Dr. Robert D. Crane I.  Challenge and Response As a professional long-range global forecaster, it is apparent to me from simple trend analysis that both the Muslim Umma and civilization on earth may not have a long…01/03/12
The Politics of Fear and the Crash of Newt Gingrich, Part IIThe Politics of Fear and the Crash of Newt Gingrich, Part II by Dr. Robert D. Crane     Now the bad news.  Newt Gingrich has not yet irrevocably crashed.  Thanks to this Wicked Wizard of Oz, one can argue that Americans now face one of the clearest and most…12/23/11
The Politics of Fear and the Crash of Newt Gingrich, the Wicked Wizard of OzThe Politics of Fear and the Crash of Newt Gingrich, the Wicked Wizard of Oz by Dr. Robert D. Crane Here is the latest news:  Gingrich, the wicked wizard of Oz, crashes in Iowa.  During the first half of December, 2011, the two opposites, the progressivist Gingrich, and the libertarian,…12/19/11
Justice: the Newest Meme in Modern Mimetic WarfareJustice: the Newest Meme in Modern Mimetic Warfare by Dr. Robert D. Crane Mimetic warfare is the use of symbols, like words or memes, to manipulate the mind of one’s opponent subliminally, that is, without the opponent even knowing that he is a victim.  Two of the standard weapons are…12/12/11
Does ‘Humanitarian Democracy’ Justify ‘Wars of Unilateral Preemption”?Libya and the Just War Doctrine: Does ‘Humanitarian Democracy’ Justify ‘Wars of Unilateral Preemption’? by Dr. Robert D. Crane Many articles have been published recently on both the moral legitimacy and the practical consequences of humanitarian intervention.  Does support of human rights justify modern warfare.  In theory, the answer is…12/04/11
Crisis in Tunisia: Defining Shari’ah and CaliphateCrisis in Tunisia: Defining Shari’ah and Caliphate by Dr. Robert D. Crane     The issue of the “6th caliphate” is at least temporarily blocking political progress in Tunisia. This crisis is important because Tunisia is the closest the Arab Soring has come in any country to generating a politico-economic…11/19/11
Arab Literalism versus Persian Symbolism as Opposite Factors in the Spread of Islam‘Id al Adha versus Kurban Bayramy: Arab Literalism versus Persian Symbolism as Opposite Factors in the Spread of Islam by Dr. Robert D. Crane Kerim Balci’s seminal article, “The Feast of Proximity”, available at k.balci@todayszaman.com, is excellent on the difference between the Arab emphasis on external acts in the feast…11/10/11
Libya, America, and Human Rights: Facts or FictionLibya, America, and Human Rights: Facts or Fiction by Dr. Robert D. Crane I.  Definitions A free press is the first essential of human rights.  Human dignity is the second.  Muammar Qaddafi was a model tyrant and totalitarian because he flagrantly violated both of these essentials for a legitimate government. …11/01/11
Liberating the Heart of Africa: A Case Study of the Classical Monkey SyndromeLiberating the Heart of Africa: A Case Study of the Classical Monkey Syndrome by Dr. Robert D. Crane       We finally now seem to be militarily committed to chase down the Lord’s Resistence Army as an opening to liberate the Heart of Africa.  The Neocons did not create…10/21/11
Religious Freedom in Saudi Arabia:  Is King Abdullah Serious?Religious Freedom in Saudi Arabia:  Is King Abdullah Serious? by Dr. Robert D. Crane     Perhaps the time has come to call a spade a spade in the growing crisis of Southwest Asia, because pussy-footing around will only make it worse.  Yesterday in Vienna, Austria, with much fanfare, the…10/15/11

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Teaching Children about Islam in America Muslim Cherokees Melungeons | 7 Aug 2016


Melungeon is an ethnic group of people who are distinct from African Americans, Native Americans, and White Americans. They have lived in the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee.  The first documented reference to the word, “Melungeon” was in 1810.  The people were described as not Negro or Native American, but of foreign descent.  The Melungeon people have an oral history of their Portuguese ancestry.  Their customs were described by Elizabeth Hirschman in her book, Melungeons, The Last Lost Tribe in America. She describes Melungeons as people who preferred coffee to tea, played a stringed instrument very similar to those played in the Middle East. She describes the way they planted their gardens to be similar to that of the Portuguese, and described the women as wearing long dresses and scarves or bonnets.  In this book she gathers DNA samples from several people who identified themselves as Melungeons and found that most of them had a mixture of Native American, Irish, and Portuguese genes.

The existence of Melungeons proved problematic in a racially divided America.  Melungeons refused to be relocated to Native American reservations because they did not identify themselves as Native American, threatening their right to vote. They were not accepted by White people, and were not known to be African American. Instead they insisted that they were Portuguese. Because of this claim, the Moor Sundry Act of 1790 was passed in South Carolina.  This act concluded that Melungeons were in fact descendants of Morocco and should be treated as Free Persons of Color.  Understanding the race of the Melungeons was important at that time because it was forbidden for people to marry from outside their race. Therefore, many Melungeons intermarried for several generations.  Abraham Lincoln and Elvis Presley are believed to have Melungeon ancestry.


How Melungeons came to live in the Appalachian mountains is a mystery.  Some claim that Moors sailed to the Americas to escape the Inquisition of Spain between the 1200’s and 1500’s – perhaps before Columbus.  Many site the frequent use of the word Allah and in the Cherokee language, Cherokee chiefs of the 1800’s with Arabic names, and the Cherokee’s use of the turban as some hints of the encounters between Cherokees and Muslims.

Most people refer to the Lost Colony of Roanoke. This was England’s first attempt to settle in the New World.  The English were in fierce competition with the Spaniards and did not want to allow the Spaniards to claim all of the New World and its riches. This colony was established first established in 1584, but the people returned to England after experiencing an Indian attack.  In 1587, John White, an artist, brought 150 Englishmen and several slaves to Roanoke Island to attempt to create an English settlement once again.  The ships were captained by Sir Francis Drake, who wrote about his adventures.  Through White’s drawings and Drake’s writing much of the documentation of the events of Roanoke were recorded.  Drake wrote that John White brought about 200 Moors. The Moors were galley slaves, enslaved after the Inquisition of 1492.  He told them he would take them to Morocco, but instead, he took them to Roanoke. John White left the colonists to return to England for more supplies.  He did not return right away because Spain was attacking England and his passage was blocked. When he finally did return in 1590, he found the colony deserted.  No skeletons or even sign of attack was evident.  The only clue was the letters CRO etched in a tree.  While assumed from this that the colonists had joined a friendly group of Native Americans named the Croatians. To this day, many people are mystified about what happened to the colonists.

While it is clear that Melungeons are not Muslims, it is clear that they were significantly influenced by the culture of the Muslims from Spain and Portugal.  According to DNA testing, it appears true that they were descendants of Portuguese Muslim slaves. Their ancestors came to America for the same reason other Europeans did. They wanted to find religious freedom and escape being persecuted by Catholics for refusing to be Catholic.

  1. What are Melungeons?
  2. What are some of the descriptions of Melungeon culture as described by researchers?
  3. Summarize the story of the Lost Colony of Roanoke.
  4. What evidence is there to support the claim that Moors were brought to Roanoke?
  5. Why weren’t the names of the Moors who came to Roanoke recorded?
  6. List some famous Americans who are likely descendants of Melungeons.
  7. Why was being a Melungeon problematic in early America?



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