Of Indians and Islam or
why you don’t have dress like other people to understand them
Seth J. Frantzman
August 3rd, 2007
They called him Nantan Lupan or the ‘grey fox’. General George Crook was one of America’s most well known ‘Indian Fighters’. He served against the Sioux and other tribes, but his greatest fame came from his attempt in the territory of Arizona to bring the Apaches to heel. He was successful, but one American Indian leader refused to submit. Geronimo, and his small band fled their reservation on May 17th, 1885. The U.S army threw up a net of forts and search parties, numbering over 4,000 men to find less than a hundred of Apache, many of whome were women and children. The ensuing campaign took the American army into Mexico to track down Geronimo who eventually surrendered on Sept. 4th, 1886. The agents sent by the U.S government had encouraged the Apache to adopt the ways of the white man, to wear western clothes and to farm.
Perhaps Geronimo had heard of the fate of the Cherokee, a tribe that had once lived in Georgia. They had not been forced to dress as Westerners, they had attempted to ape the white man of their own accord. They dressed in suits and their women gave up their immodest ways and wore long dresses and covered their hair with bonnets. The men bought black slaves, like their white neighbors. But their assimilation of the white mans’ values and culture and habits could not save them. In fact their appeasement sealed their fate. When the soldiers came to remove them they were so thoroughly infused with white culture that they had lost their will to fight and their ability to go to the hills and resist. The Cherokee nation was relocated, with their slaves, to Oklahoma after a brutal winter march where many died. Perhaps Geronimo knew the story of his fellow American Indians who had worked so hard to understand the other, to their detriment.
While Geronimo languished in exile in Florida for the remaining twenty years of his life his old adversary, George Crook, campaigned on behalf of the rights of natives.
These two men present a compelling story of two warriors who understood one another. Neither adopted the others culture, except when it was forcibly imposed. They didn’t need to dress like one another to understand eachother. They didn’t need to ape eachother’s religions in order to understand one another. Geronimo never entered a church and to this authors knowledge Crook never entered a sweat lodge or believed in the religion of the Apache or any other tribe he came into contact with.
The American Indian of old had many responses to the invasion of foreigners. Some fought. Some were vanquished by disease. Some dressed in top hats and tails and their wives dressed in the best of East coast fashion. Many converted to Christianity. Whatever they did it didn’t save them. Their destruction was carried out with tragic consequences by all the powers they came into contact with, from the Spanish to the French, the English and the Americans.
We are no better than the American Indian, and in many ways much worse. Our attempts to ‘understand’ and combat Islam are frustrated by the same problems as the Indians had in grappling with the white man. A recent article by a Caucasian ignoramus entitled ‘Four young Americans on a Journey into Islam’ which appeared in the Herald Tribune on Friday, August 3rd, 2007 noted how four white Americans had taken a ‘journey’ with a professor named Akbar Ahmed to a number of Muslim states including Pakistan and Egypt to understand the other. Jonathan Hayden(of Alabama), Hailey Woldt(a ‘blonde Texan’) and Hadia Mubarek(an American born Muslim) were among the students that Ahmed brought with him to meet with Muslims and build cultural bridges.
We are informed of the lengths the whites went to please the other. Woldt dyed her hair brown. “As the trip progressed she began dressing more traditionally. Reaching Jinnah’s mausoleum [in Pakistan], she realized she had forgotten a head scarf, or hijab, and refused to enter. Ahmed and some Pakistani women assured her she did not need one, but she held firm until she could borrow a scarf.” Hadia Mubarek, who wears a head scarf in America and in Muslim countries was almost refused entrance to a university in Istanbul because she was covering her hair, something secular Turkish institutions frown upon. All the Muslims spoke about how their role model was Mohammed. The group made sure to meet with all the anti-western Jihadist organizations it could including members of the Deoband madrasa. When, after many days of meeting with the friendly Islamists, one of the Islamists named Aijaz Qasmi, finally stopped referring to them as “American barbarians” the white women, Hailey, “was moved by Qasmi’s gesture and by what it portended.” The white woman noted that “it’s like changing the rotation of the Earth.” The moronic author of the article noted that Ahmed’s book ‘Islam Under Siege,’ “talks about dialogue, common humanity and the need for understanding.”
Its always interesting to see how Westerners, particularly Western women, always think that the only way to have understanding between cultures is for westerners to become part of the other culture, to dress like it and act like it. The western woman on the trip never once bothered to ask why she alone, rather than her male counterparts, had to dress differently in order to please Islam and why one should change their dress just to please others’ conception of ‘morality’. Note the hypocrisy of these actions. The Muslim women, Hadia, doesn’t conform to the west by taking off her head scarf when she comes to a western country. But the white woman, Hailey, makes sure to don the headscarf and even wears it when Muslims don’t. The Westerner rejoices at getting people to perhaps not call them ‘barbarians’ to their faces. The westerner thinks that a book entitled ‘Islam under siege’ is really a book that speaks of a ‘common humanity.’
Can anyone imagine a black student who is interested in ‘building cultural bridges’ going up and spending a weekend with the KKK at one of their retreats and being ‘overjoyed’ because the KKK members stop calling her ‘nigger’? Oddly enough we don’t see too many blacks doing that. But while blacks don’t show much interest in embracing their former slave masters and colonial overlords who still hate them, the whites seem intent on always embracing any culture that hates them, especially Muslims who formerly colonized half of Europe and enslaved its people.
The Cherokees were taken in by the same levels of idiocy as the Westerner is today. The Cherokees dressed like the white man. The Cherokee women covered their hair. They built bridges of understanding. They also begged white people to stop calling them ‘barbarians( in order to be ‘civilized’ they purchased slaves and created a writing system for their language).’ They must have felt it was a world changing revolution when they stopped being referred to as ‘heathen’. But words didn’t mean much when they were uprooted and deported from their land. One wonders if all the Cherokee women who had been wearing bonnets and long uncomfortable hoop skirts threw them away on the Trail of Tears, if they finally realized that their stupid modest clothing had bought them nothing. If they didn’t they may have feared for the lives of their husbands, for many of the Cherokee collaborators who had preached peace and subservience to the white man were later hacked down by full blooded Cherokees, who had refused to yield. They say that the collaborators were purposely butchered with Cherokee ceremonial axes once they arrived in Oklahoma(their new home), a reference to the traditions that the top hat wearing, slave owning Cherokees had so disdained and abandoned.
Poor Geronimo in exile in Florida. He finally did take to Western clothes. In a picture from an expo in 1904 he appears in a top hat selling souvenirs of himself. Perhaps he recalled another time he had been photographed. In 1886, beside General Crook, he appears in his natural environment, the Sanoran desert, with his own clothing. In that 1886 black and white photo taken by C.S Fly the only non-western addition to Geronimo’s wardrobe was a Winchester Rifle(later surrendered at Ft. Bowie and now at the National Museum of the American Indian). The American Indian was superior to Islam. In many ways he was superior to the white man. But he succumbed to the white man. After the 1880s he was confined to reservations, his children’s hair was shaved, his language was forbidden, his ‘savage and barbarian’ ways were eradicated. Sometimes, in a forlorn manner, he was called upon. An Apache helped train Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders before the Spanish-American war. Navajo code-talkers(their ‘code’ was their language) served with the U.S army in the Pacific in the Second World War. When Geronimo was being shipped through Oklahoma on his way to Florida in 1888 he would have passed close to the birthplace of Jim Thorpe whose real name was Wa-Tho-Huk among his Sac and Fox ancestors. Tragic Jim Thorpe’s mother had married an Irishman and Thorpe was raised a Catholic. But throughout his life, whether at the Carlisle Indian College or when he was winning the Gold medal for the Decathlon and Pentathlon in the 1912 Olympics, it could not esacpe him that he was an American Indian. He took fourth place in the high jump and seventh in the long jump as well as well as third in the Javelin, a sport he had only learned that year. When King Gustav V of Sweden noted at the close of the games(which were held in Sweden) that “you, sir, are the greatest athlete in the world”, Thorpe is reputed to have replied “thanks, king.” Thorpe never cowtowed to royalty or Islam, because Mr. Thrope was an American, and unlike Hailey Woldt, Jim Thorpe never dyed his brown ‘Indian’ hair blonde for the edification of others.