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Iowa and Algeria Share a Hero

4 June 2009 No Comment

Stephannie Fox-Dixon, John W. Kiser, Rebecca Roberts

Mary Liepold

USA

From our good friend David Crumm at Read the Spirit comes a story in the spirit of President Obama’s June 4 address to the Muslim world. Historian John W. Kiser (center) wrote a book about a Muslim hero, Emir Abd el-Kader. High school students in Elkader, Iowa, read the book and wrote essays about its subject. Here are excerpts from two of the best.

From Rebecca Roberts (pictured at right):
“Elkader is an odd name for a little town. It is especially odd for one in the middle of nowhere in the Midwest. It is even more odd when you realize that the person who our town is named after is a man who was famous in the 19th Century but is now mostly unknown in the United States.

(Rebecca then describes the emir’s life, told in “Commander of the Faithful.” She is most impressed by the emir’s nobility … after he experienced betrayal and brutal treatment at the hands of the French, who imprisoned him for years. Once freed … the emir continued to live as a champion of human rights. That included risking his own life to defend Christian neighbors from a mob bent on destroying them. She writes:)

“…when he heard about the attack he … protected the Christians by taking them into his own home until the danger had passed. (Some of the people he offered to protect rejected his offer and perished.) When word … reached the world’s ears, it was met with surprise and he was hailed as a hero.  . .

In recent years the Emir’s legacy continues to inspire more involvement with our international neighbors. This cooperation comes in many forms from the big things like becoming a Sister City with Mascara, Algeria, in 1984 to the smaller things like building, in 2003, a playground in honor of Idriss Jazairy Jr., the young son of the former Algerian ambassador.”

In her essay, Stephannie Fox-Dixon (left) explains how the name came to Iowa.

“Through New York attorney and Iowa pioneer Timothy Davis, Emir Abd-el Kader gave our quaint and charming town a piece of unique history. Davis, along with Abd el-Kader, was a man of great character—with strong morals, an excellent education, and an open mind. …

Davis had been following international news and had learned much about Emir Abd el-Kader and his resistance to the French incursion of Algeria. When given the opportunity to name their new settlement in 1846, Davis admiringly dubbed it “Elkader.”
. . . Since learning about his life I now regard Abd el-Kader as one of the forefathers of some of the world’s greatest nationalists and humanitarians such as Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. Both Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Emir employed faith as their rock when upholding their causes. … The Emir’s compassion towards his adversaries is typical of Gandhi’s principles for Satyagraha.”

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