MAMOSA Report, Nov 21, 2015 (Updated on FEB 2, 2017) — Standing proud and symbolizing freedom, Lady Liberty, one of the world’s most well-known statues in New York (and the world) was originally conceived as a Muslim peasant woman.
In fact, the statue was to have stood at the approach to the Suez Canal instead of the New York harbor, a lantern in her upraised hand serving as both lighthouse and a symbol of progress.
So how did this All-American symbol of freedom end up in New York’s Staten Island and not being a Muslim?
It was all about finances or lack of it.
Sculptor, Frederic Auguste Bartholdi of France was unable to convince Ismail Pasha, the then viceroy of Egypt, to finance his project. However, determined to erect the statue, he sailed to America with drawings of the Muslim woman transformed to the personification of Liberty.
At first, Bartholdi considered the tip of Manhattan and Central Park as possible sites. He was on a ferry to Staten Island when he decided that it would be just the spot.
Soon after, the sculptor struck up a conversation with supporters of the North in the American Civil War who suggested that France should offer the US the statue as a gift in recognition of the end of the war.
After years of negotiation, the two decided that America would pay for the Statue of Liberty’s pedestal and France for the statue itself.
Once built in 1880, it became the famous icon of freedom – with the words by American poet Emma Lazarus written on it.
As she now stands — the Muslim woman turned to Lady Liberty, — the light in her upraised hand symbolizing so much more than simple progress, and the inscription at the base words that are familiar to us all — now echo a particular historical resonance:
“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
The Daily Beast wrote in November 2015 after the Paris terrorist attack: To truly be Lady Liberty, the figure built with kids’ coins and originally conceived as a Muslim must remain a Muslim as well as a Christian and a Jew and a Hindu and a Buddhist and every other faith…
And those words in the inscription must apply to everyone, most particularly youngsters who are in a plight such as Aylan’s, (5-yr-old) Syrian child) but are not yet beyond saving, who might still reach the golden door.
But whatever damage an agent might be able to inflict would be nothing compared to what we would do to ourselves by going against what makes us great.
Let’s hope the horror in Paris doesn’t cause us to do so just because some politicians are trying to play on our fears.
When we welcome and aid the tempest-tossed, from Syria or anywhere else, we put to a lie what our enemies say about us.
In the moments after the planes hit the Twin Towers on 9/11, we responded with what was best in us.
But in our subsequent grief and anger we ended up becoming so unlike ourselves that we engaged in torture.
We lost so much faith in our criminal justice system that we were afraid to haul the mastermind into court like any other murderer.
In another sign of our fear, the Statue of Liberty was closed to visitors for three years. The crown as closed for another eight.
“I hate to bust your bubble, the statue isn’t facing Manhattan,” U.S. Park Ranger Kenya Finley said as visitors were again allowed to ascend to the top in 2009. “It’s facing France, but you can see Brooklyn first.”
(The original article appeared in The Daily Beast)