Though most of us think of the American relationship with Islam as a modern phenomenon, the encounter in fact goes back to the very first days of the nation. That encounter was from its first a troubled affair and involves the origins of U.S. military and diplomatic affairs. American conflicts with Muslim states in North Africa provide the opening to Max Boot's fine analysis of The Savage Wars of Peace: Small Wars and the Rise of American Power, and we all probably know a little about "The Shores of Tripoli." We may not know that these events occasioned the first draft of our national anthem. In response to these wars, around 1805, Francis Scott Key composed a patriotic song that described how:
In the conflict resistless each toil they endured, 'Till their foes fled dismayed from the war's desolation; And pale beamed the crescent, its splendor obscured By the light of the star-spangled flag of our nation. Where each radiant star gleamed a meteor of war, And the turbaned heads bowed to its terrible glare, Now mixed with the olive the laurel shall wave, And form a bright wreath for the brow of the brave.
The tune would become "The Star Spangled Banner."
Mr. Jenkins is a professor of History and Religious Studies at Penn State University. Prof. Jenkins' books include:
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