Elkader: US town named after a Muslim Saint

In 1846, the Christian Iowa farmers in Clayton County named a new town Elkader in honor of Algerian prince Abdel Kader el-Jazairy for saving 12,000 Maronite Christians from massacre during the 1860 Mount Lebanon Civil War (an uprising by Syrian Maronite Christian farmers against their Druze landowners) – an act for which US President Abraham Lincoln lauded him for his bravery and respect for Christian faith.

Even the Jew York Times eulogized the Algerian Emir as “one of the few great men of the century. The nobility of his character won him the admiration of the world.”

Syrian Maronite Church declared prince Abd el Kader el Jazairy as a Muslim Saint .

Elkader is the only American town named after an Arab hero. It has a total population of 1,500 with three churches – but no Muslim, Arab or a mosque.

Since 2008 Elkader has been reviving his legacy, thanks largely to the 9-year-old nonprofit group, Abdelkader Education Project (AEP).

Abd el-Kader led Muslim resistance against French colonists in the 1830s. He liberated two-third of Algeria occupied by the French Judeo-Christian settlers. He bought arms from Ottoman Turkey and England. The French army succeeded in defeating the Muslim resistance by 1848 and Abd el-Kader took refuge in Morocco. But Paris forced King of Morocco to extradite him. He was handed over to France on Napoleon III’s promise that he would be allowed to migrate to Syria or Egypt. But the good Catholic king abandoned his promise and put Abd el-Kader in jail where he suffered torture and religious humiliation for five year before Napoleon III released him on the condition never to interfere in the affairs of Algeria. Abd el-Kader, thus went to the Ottoman town of Bursa in October 1852. Following a severe earthquake in 1855, he left Bursa and settled in Damascus where he died on May 26, 1883. He was buried near the tomb of Sheikh Ibn Arabi. On July 5, 1966, his body was taken from this place with a great ceremony attended by Muslim and Christian religious leaders and Syrian president and cabinet ministers (watch a video below).

American Jewish historian Jan T. Gross (Princeton) said last year: “In the face of anti-Muslim sentiment and religious intolerance, AEP seeks to counter stereotypes about Islam as a religion of violence and the Muslim as terrorist and enemy of the West. The Emir’s life offers a perfect way to understand how religions can help to build bridges and preserve humanity even in wartime.”

American author John W. Kiser’s book, Commander of the Faithful: The Life and Times of Emir Abd el-Kader, says: “The students’ stereotypes about Muslims and Arabs have been challenged, and their minds opened to the diversity of the Muslim world,” he observes. As a role model, he says, Abd el-Kader is a unifierwhose probing intellect, ethical courage, compassion, depth of knowledge – impress all who learn about him.

In 1842, Emir Abd el-Kader established the Code for the Protection of Prisoners of War – based on Islamic Sharia’h. It was two decades before the Swiss millionaire and Christian Zionist Henri Dunant established the International Red Cross in 1863. Henri Dunant, a personal friend of Theodor Herzl, attended the first Zionist Conference at Basel in 1897.

In 1843 Marshal of the French empire, Nicolas Jean-de-Dieu Soult (d. 1851) declared that ‘Abd el-Kader as one of the three great men then living ; the two others were, Chechen Imam Shamil and Ottoman Gen.Muhammad Ali Pasha, the Viceroy of Egypt.

In 2012, Hollywood director Oliver Stone (Jewish) showed interest to make a movie on Emir Abd el-Kader with the notorious Islamophobe Jew actor George Clooney playing the Muslim Saint part. However, opposition from Algerian and Syrian cultural ministries killed the project.

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