Amid an expanse of undulating Iowa farmland and Catholic and Lutheran churches, the town of Elkader bears the name of a Muslim hero.
Abd el-Kader was renowned in the 19th century for leading Algeria’s fight for independence and protecting non-Muslims from persecution. Even Abraham Lincoln extolled him.
This weekend, for the fifth year in a row, Elkader will welcome a delegation of Arab dignitaries to celebrate this rare lifeline of tolerance, spanning continents and centuries, reports the New York Times.
Algeria’s ambassador to the United States participates annually in the Abdelkader Education Project forum, standing with other participants — and the Iowans who organize the event — as an affirmation of friendship between the U.S. and Islam.
The project’s website states its goal as renewing public awareness of a great personality who possessed many needed qualities in short supply today:
- Abdelkader’s intervention in Syria to save the lives of hundreds of Levantine Christians was an act of defiance that won him the respect of former enemies and allies alike.
- He was a man of civility, compassion, zest for learning, moral courage and self-restraint.
- The nineteenth-century Arab Muslim scholar-soldier-statesman and humanitarian was admired by President Lincoln, Queen Victoria and Pope Pius IX.
“The emir was respected from the Missouri Territory to Moscow to Mecca,” the website continues. “Upon his death in 1883, The New York Times eulogized, ‘The nobility of his character won him the admiration of the world… He was one of the few great men of the century.'”
(READ the story in the New York Times)