The Statue of Liberty Was Born a Muslim
The Statue of Liberty was originally conceived as a Muslim peasant woman and was to have stood at the approach to the Suez Canal, a lantern in her upraised hand serving as both lighthouse and a symbol of progress.
But the sculptor, Frederic Auguste Bartholdi of France, proved unable to sell the idea to the khedive of Egypt, Ishma’il Pasha. Bartholdi remained determined to erect a colossus on the scale of the one in ancient Rhodes. He sailed to America with drawings of the Muslim woman transformed to the personification of Liberty.
In the 1860s, long before the Statue of Liberty was constructed, he designed a statue of a female Egyptian peasant to be placed at the head of the Suez Canal.
The original sculpture, sketched out as a robed woman holding a torch, would be known as “Egypt Carrying the Light to Asia” to symbolize progress.
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 Bedloe’s Island would be just the spot.
And there she now stands, the Muslim woman turned to Lady Liberty, the light in her upraised hand symbolizing so much more than simple progress, the inscription at the base words from the poet Emma Lazarus that are familiar to us all:
“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!”
From that promise has sprung America’s greatness. And the terrorists would love to see us shut that golden door out of fear.
Word that a fake Syrian passport was found near the body of one of the terrorists in Paris suddenly has more than a dozen governors declaring that they will bar Syrian refugees from their states. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie says he would even turn away orphans under the age of 5.
Christie took a very different position two months ago, after the public was shocked by photos showing 3-year–old Aylan Kurdi dead on a Turkish beach, having drowned while he and his family were attempting to escape the horrors of Syria.
“We can’t have that,” Christie the presidential candidate said then of the dead child, also saying, “I’d sit down with our allies and figure out how we can help, because America is a compassionate country.”
Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi’s sketch of an Egyptian peasant woman, robed and holding a torch. The project was rejected and the artist took his original inspiration to New York and created the Statue of Liberty.
According to the National Park Service, prior to designing it, he took a life-changing trip throughout Europe and the Middle East, where Bartholdi “discovered his passion for large-scale public monuments and colossal sculptures.”
“In 1869, the Egyptian government expressed interest in designing a lighthouse for the Suez Canal. Eager and excited, Bartholdi designed a colossal statue of a robed woman holding a torch, which he called Egypt (or Progress) Brings Light to Asia. When he attended the canal’s inauguration, however, Bartholdi was informed that he would not be able to proceed with the lighthouse,” the service added.
“Although disappointed, Bartholdi received a second chance to design a colossal statue. In 1865, Edouard de Laboulaye proposed that a monument representing freedom and democracy be created for the United States. Bartholdi was a great supporter of Laboulaye’s idea and in 1870 he began designing the Statue of ‘Liberty Enlightening the World.’”
The fact that Bartholdi wanted to, as author Barry Moreno wrote, put up the “veiled peasant woman” statue in Egypt before designing the Statue of Liberty has led some–including the Smithsonian–to claim that the statue “was born a Muslim.”
While some historians believe Bartholdi designed the Statue of Liberty for the US after he failed to sell that original idea of the peasant statue to Egypt – sort of as a last-ditch attempt at getting the project off the ground – others say that argument belittles both works and the two aren’t all that connected.
“Bartholdi remained determined to erect a colossus on the scale of the one in ancient Rhodes,” Daly writes, arguing in favor of the Statute of Liberty as essentially a ripoff. “He sailed to America with drawings of the Muslim woman transformed to the personification of Liberty.”
However, historians question the timeline, pointing to the fact Bartholdi originally drew up sketches for “Egypt Carrying the Light to Asia” in the 1860s. It wasn’t until 1885 that he brought the Statue of Liberty to the US.
“He went back to France and was there for about a year or so before he went to the United States,” Edward Berenson, professor of history at New York University and author of “The Statue of Liberty: A Transatlantic Story,” told Global News Canada. “He didn’t go directly from Egypt to the United States.”
It may only have been once he decided to immigrate to the United States that the idea popped back into his head, re imagined for an American context.
“Bartholdi took the sketches he had made for the Egyptian statue and changed them. He worked from that model,” Berenson told Global News.
In other words, Bartholdi certainly could have drawn inspiration from his earlier project in Egypt in bringing a new statue to America. But it’s less certain whether he did so as a way to avoid throwing out a complex project.
It may simply have been a design Bartholdi enjoyed, which he wanted to adapt in some form no matter where it stood.
Judge for yourself. The similarities are apparent, but does that mean The Statue of Liberty began as a Muslim peasant?
Author Edward Berenson wrote in The Statue of Liberty: A Transatlantic Story, that the Egypt design “a giant female fellah, or Arab peasant, and gradually evolved into a colossal goddess,” which “bore an uncanny likeness to what we know as the Statue of Liberty.”