What the Statue of Liberty’s Muslim Roots Mean for Women & Immigrants
In 2015, the Smithsonian released a statement that shook the Internet: Lady Liberty
was born a Muslim. The face of American greatness that stands for liberty, enlightenment and freedom evolved from an Egyptian veiled peasant woman of Islamic faith, an idea that had spawned from sculptor Frederic Auguste Bartholdi of France. The statue was originally named “Egypt Carrying the Light to Asia” and was to stand erect at the front of Suez Canal to represent progress until the proposal was struck down by the khedive of the time, Isma’il Pasha, who pinned it as too costly.
Bartholdi, refusing to take no for an answer, arrived at the shores of America with the sketch renamed as “Liberty Enlightening the World,” where the statue was accepted as a gift from the French as a way to commemorate an alliance between the two nations. It was shipped in crates, assembled and was finally unveiled on Oct. 28, 1886 in New York Harbor. It has greeted immigrants and returnees to America ever since.
Fast-forward 150 years and here we are, on the cusp of a national Democratic collapse with a looming presidency that threatens the already very shaky pedestal Lady Liberty stands on.
Engraved on the surface is a sonnet written by American poet Emma Lazarus:
“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
But America’s doors have never been so rapidly closing—and to the exact people Lady Liberty was born among. Former President George Bush Jr.’s policies post-9/11 were only the prelude to a series of anti-Muslim immigration efforts that followed and have metastasized since—albeit with some pushback from the Oval Office under President Obama’s two terms regarding refugees—and have already grown exponentially under Trump’s vision of a “Great America.”
Handing the torch of freedom to Trump and his white, Republican, Islamophobic cabinet is handing the torch of freedom to men who do not understand neither its weight, nor its origins. Kobach’s formerly passed and currently re-proposed Muslim registry that has roots in the Japanese internment camps from World War II, the GOP party’s staunch anti-Syrian refugee policy, Republican members’ insistence on policing of Muslim neighborhoods and Trump’s comments on resuming torture methods all point to a freedom in shambles.
During the 2016 presidential election race, Trump repeatedly demonized Syrian refugees calling them “definitely, in many cases, ISIS-aligned,” and vowed to deport the 12,000 refugees who successfully sought the asylum Lady Liberty promised. “If I win, they’re going back,” he threatened.
There is a bitter irony in the knowledge that the same woman, who was born a Muslim, stood tall for liberty and sanctuary for the tired, poor and homeless—is being forced to close its embrace on Muslims in the name of false security and out of cowering fear.
Under the guise to create a greater country—for Trump and the “alt-right,” white supremacy and the freedom to abuse power—America has repeatedly (the Irish, the Chinese, etc., and now the Muslims) forgotten its supposed roots as the land of immigrants.
Putting Trump and his not-so-promising administration in power is asking a very ugly side of America to carry the torch of the Statue of Liberty. But someone remind them all, fire burns back.