Tlaib’s statement here is part of the ongoing effort to rewrite early American history to put Muslims in it, and to recast Thomas Jefferson as an Islamophilic multiculturalist. Reality was different. Jefferson owned a Qur’an because he understood that one must know one’s enemy in order to know how to defeat him. In 1786, Jefferson and John Adams met in London with Sidi Haji Abdrahaman, the eyalet (administer) of Tripolitania’s ambassador to London. Jefferson recounted in a letter to Congress what Abdrahaman’s response was when he and Adams asked him “concerning the ground of the pretensions to make war upon nations who had done them no injury”:
The ambassador answered us that it was founded on the Laws of the Prophet, that it was written in their Koran, that all nations who should not have answered their authority were sinners, that it was their right and duty to make war upon them wherever they could be found, and to make slaves of all they could take as prisoners, and that every Mussulman who should be slain in battle was sure to go to Paradise.
Thus it had been since the beginning of Islam, and thus it would remain. This particular eruption of the long hostility that Barbary piracy represented came to a head in 1801, when Yusuf Karamanli, the bashaw of Tripoli, increased his demands on an already cash-strapped republic, demanding 220 thousand dollars up front and twenty-five thousand dollars each year from the United States. The new president, Jefferson, opted to go to war rather than continue paying these increasingly exorbitant tributes. Emerging victorious against the Barbary states in 1805 and again in a second war in 1815, the Americans freed themselves from paying tribute and put an end to this long episode of jihad on the high seas.