Celebrating a Muslim hero, in Iowa

By Jan Gross

Director Oliver Stone announced in 2013 the coproduction of a biopic designed to “share with the world a laudable Muslim leader who preached religious tolerance.” Now in production in Algeria, under the direction of acclaimed director Charles Burnett, the film will tell the story of a 19th century Muslim hero, the Emir Abd el-Kader, often called “the George Washington of Algeria.”

Understandably, Stone’s interest in this remarkable man comes in response to the post-9/11 anti-Muslim sentiment. Yet, more than a century and a half ago, in 1846, a frontier settlement in Iowa first laid claim to the then-living hero. Named “Elkader” by co-founder Timothy Davis, the town honored the Muslim leader of Algerian resistance against French colonization.

The emir was anointed “Commander of the Faithful” in 1832. His “deeds of heroism filled all Europe with wonder” as he led tribes into David-and-Goliath battles against ruthless French forces bent on colonizing the coveted land of Algeria. Beyond success on the battlefield, the devout emir also commanded “the admiration of his adversaries,” upholding the Muslim values of humane warfare well in advance of the Geneva Conventions. [Read more...]

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