Since the events of 9/11 the Prophet Muhammad has been in the news the world over for all the wrong reasons. Examples of this include the Prophet (PBUH) being mocked in political cartoons as a terrorist and depicted as a child killer, rapist, and adulterer in films such as The Innocence of Muslims.
The Prophet (PBUH), however, is represented in an entirely different light in the United States Supreme Court building. Instead of portraying him as a violent fanatic, as so many critics do, the Supreme Court honours the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) as a source of justice alongside other Abrahamic prophets such as Moses and Soloman.
In the Courtroom Frieze of the Supreme Court building, a sculpture of the Prophet (PBUH) is shown holding the Qur’an (see picture above). The website of the Supreme Court states:
Prophet Muhammad’s teachings explain and implement Qur’anic principles. The figure above is a well-intentioned attempt by the sculptor, Adolph Weinman, to honor Muhammad and it bears no resemblance to Muhammad. Muslims generally have a strong aversion to sculptured or pictured representations of their Prophet.
In the United States, the reverence of the Prophet (PBUH) dates back to the inception of the country during the American Revolution. Americans and Muslims worldwide shouldn’t be surprised when they see that the writings of America’s Founding Fathers reveal an open perspective and absolute acceptance of Islam and, indeed, all religions.
Here is a passage from my article, ‘What would America’s Founding Fathers say about Islam?, in The Arab News:
“The bosom of America,” wrote George Washington in 1783, is “open to receive . . . the oppressed and persecuted of all nations and religions, whom we shall welcome to a participation of all our rights and privileges . . . They may be Mahometans [Muslims], Jews, or Christians of any sect, or they may be atheists.”
John Adams, who served as vice president under George Washington, called the Prophet Muhammad one of the world’s “sober inquirers of truth”. Echoing Washington, he stated in 1797 that the US government “has in itself no character or enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity of [Muslims].” Benjamin Franklin helped fund the construction of a religious temple in Philadelphia that would be open to all faiths, “so that even if the Mufti of Constantinople were to send a missionary to preach [Islam] to us, he would find a pulpit at his service.”
In a document on religious freedom that was written for the Virginian colonial legislature in 1777, Thomas Jefferson stated that “the Jew, the Gentile, the Christian, and the [Muslim], the Hindoo [Hindu], and infidel of every denomination” are welcome. Today a statue of Jefferson stands at the University of Virginia. He is holding a tablet that reads, “Religious Freedom, 1786”, below which is inscribed Allah, alongside God, Jehovah and Brahma.