Starting in Iowa, the project is growing a worldwide movement to revive the legacy of Emir Abdelkader. Our goal is to restore the historical memory of a remarkable human being whose importance today is greater than ever. He was also an Arab warrior-scholar-statesman respected and admired from the Missouri Territory to Moscow to Mecca. When he died in 1883, the New York Times wrote, he “deserved to be counted among the few great men of the century.”
The project was born from Commander of the Faithful: The Life and Times of Emir Abdelkader, a Story of True Jihad (Monkfish Books) launched in Elkader, Iowa in 2008. The emir’s fame was such that in 1846 a country lawyer in Dubuque named a settlement after the “valiant Arab chieftain” who had been frustrating a French colonial occupation of North Africa for 15 years. Exiled in Damascus, he reached the pinnacle of his fame by saving the lives of thousands of local Christians and the European diplomatic community who were the object of a local pogrom in 1860.
Using the life of the emir as a seed, the project wants to attract other stories of Muslims whose example can inspire Muslims and non Muslims alike. There is a need to build a counter narrative to balance the almost exclusively negative images of Muslims presented through the media. To think straight, people need more than lopsided, sensational information about Islam. That seems to be the reason Monks of Tibhirine and Commander of the Faithful have resonated widely among both Muslims and non Muslims.
Don’t ask about a man’s genealogy, but about his character, his life and his deeds.
Drink the water. If it is pure, so is source
Did You Know…
- President Lincoln honored Abdelkader as a great humanitarian for saving thousands of Christian lives in 1860.
- Upon his death in 1883, The New York Times eulogized, “…The nobility of his character won him the admiration of the world… He was one of the few great men of the century.”
- The emir’s regulations for the treatment of his prisoners were a Koranically-correct forerunner of the Geneva Convention, celebrated by the United Nations at the Palais des Nations November 4, 2010.
- Citizens of Bordeaux put Abdelkader’s name on the ballot as a candidate in the French presidential elections of 1849.
- A horse named Abdelkader (‘Little Ab’ by the racing public) was twice winner of the British Grand National Steeple Chase.
- The emir’s most influential biographer was a descendent of the Duke of Marlborough, Col. Charles Henry Churchill, British military attaché in Lebanon.
- The Suez Canal may not have been built in 1869 without Abdelkader’s influence among the Arabs, and support for the French project.
- The Abdelkader Essay Contest began in 2009 and is now open to high school juniors and seniors in Iowa. Scholarship awards are given for best essays.