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“Muslims and Social Change in the Atlantic Beach” by Sean Foley

The assumption by many Americans that the Muslim had no influence in their history and heritage may be somehow skewed and biased. Sean Foley supports this in his article, “Muslims and social change in the Atlantic Beach,” which studies the historical events and indeed finds out Islam/Muslims played a significant role in the history of America. In his studies, Foley seeks to answer two questions that he feels have not been looked into exhaustively but are fundamental factors of the relationship between Atlantic history and Islam. First, Foley asks whether “we can conceptualize Atlantic history as a viable component of Islamic history?”

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Secondly, whether Muslims – either as individuals or as representatives of an intellectual tradition are different from that of Christian Europeans – merit inclusion in mainstream histories of all societies in the Atlantic basin? Foley’s presentation is straight to the point with examples and stories to explain his arguments on the significance of Islam in social change and political reforms in Atlantic beach history. He makes reference to about 70 sources ranging from scholarly arguments to books on Muslim culture and history to base his claims and give answers to the questions posed by this research.

Muslims and Social Change in the Atlantic Beach – Sean Foley

Sean Foley in his work tries to bring out the impact of the Muslim in transforming and shaping social and political reform in the Atlantic beach. He explains that the United States and other Atlantic basin states’ heritage extended beyond the boundaries of Europe to the Islamic world. He further argues that the relationship between America and Islam/Muslims is not a twentieth-century happening as is apparent to many in reality it dates back to America’s early populace this because, Muslims have manipulated social change, reform and nation building in Atlantic basin societies from Germany to British North America over a period of five hundred years (377)

According to Foley, previous studies and researches were biased and only touched on the impact of Islam and Muslims to African and Iberian histories, but not other parts of Atlantic basin before the nineteenth century. He attributes this to the Euro-American bigotry and conceptions of Muslim and Islam as a whole which is as a result of misinformation and distortions of information. He further explores three central points in Atlantic history (15th -18th century): the reformation, rise of European nationalism and emergence of Anglo-American notions of natural law and universal human rights, that are fundamental to understanding the role of Muslim in shaping this history.

He argues that the significant historical developments and impact of Islam where Muslims were a vital contributor to the Atlantic history from its origins. Muslims assisted in shaping the location, culture, size, and industries of Europe’s settlements in the Americas and later the nations of the Western hemisphere. The role of Islam had three fundamental turning points in Atlantic history: the Protestant Reformation, the emergence of European nation-states, and the rise of notions of universal human rights.

Foley argues that the contribution of Muslims in Atlantic societies and influence of Islam on Thomas Jefferson, other theorists and Atlantic beach, yet the Muslim link has not been given as much exposure as is supposed. According to Foley, they have helped shape elite and popular conceptions of political rights, religion, national identity, commerce, and literature in the Atlantic basin. He says that “It is “self-evident” that they deserve an “equal” place in our conception of this region and the history of Euro-Atlantic societies” (378).

Foley argues that the use of military supremacy by Muslims shaped religious, literary, and political discourse in Euro-Atlantic societies and won them widespread respect. Scholars as such as Martin Luther, John Locke, and Thomas Jefferson spent substantial energy enlightening themselves and others about Islam. The paper tries to show how these scholars engaged Islam /Muslims as a means of justifying the much needed reforms within their societies.

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In fact, these scholars’ use of Islam was sufficiently clear that their opponents-from Catholic theologians to Federalist Americans-sought to discredit Luther, Jefferson, and others by arguing that they were really promoting Islamic ideas. Ultimately, an analysis of these types of debates allows us to better place Muslims and their religion in the history of Atlantic societies and ultimately in contemporary America. Foley extensively talks about Jefferson and martin Luther on their quest to enlighten people on Islam and their quest for equality and human rights subsequently emerged.

He notes that even two centuries after Jefferson died, American people still struggle with the inference of his dream of impartiality and recognition of the fact that Muslim people were a vital part of the United States even before realization of the American dream. Despite the essence of individual rights in the United States constitution, some American people retain the false conviction that their national pride and liberties are the result of their status as Christians (Foley 391)


Further evaluation of this argument can be done by getting actual comments and discussions from Muslim scholars on their take on how Islam had an impact on the social change in the Atlantic beach. Having a scholar well versed in Islam and Muslims will have more legitimacy than just basing on books or other scholarly arguments as information is a key element in an individual as it invokes one’s thoughts and actions. This helps one be able to understand the facts behind the authors arguments and interpret them effectively thus preventing a conflict in understanding history.

The ability to make quick accurate intelligent judgment about situations is an important tool in a human being as it gives him or her knowledge and experience to act with respect information at their disposal. This is not to refute Foley’s work or earlier scholarly arguments of past scholars, but only to strengthen his arguments that Islam and Muslims played a pivotal role in shaping social and political foundations of the Atlantic basin. However, Foley convincingly brings out the argument and from his article it is evident that Muslims and Islam played a crucial role in the development of the Atlantic history.

Works Cited:

Foley, Sean. “Muslims and Social Change in the Atlantic Basin.” Journal of World History, vol. 20, no. 3 (2009): 377-398.

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