Author and award-winning speaker Precious Rasheeda Muhammad wrote recently a very interesting piece for Patheos on her latest “Muslim detective” escapade in New York City.
Muhammad begins her article by sharing the 1793 speech on the “universality of masonry” by Dewitt Clinton, who included Muslims among those considered “friends and brothers” (in the same speech he also warned against “the madness of religious hatred.”) The speech was delivered at New York City’s Holland Lodge No. 8, one of the country’s foremost Masonic Lodges.
Muhammad suggests that it is likely that Dewitt gained some of his brotherly spirit, for harmony across religious divisions, from working with his uncle, founding father George Clinton, for whom he served as a personal secretary from 1790-1795.
George Clinton, as Muhammad notes, was surrounded by strong proponents of religious freedom, among them George Washington, who he had traveled with in 1790 on a campaign to gain support for ratification of the Bill of Rights. It was during this campaign when President Washington gave his famous “To Bigotry No Sanction” speech to the Hebrew Congregation at Newport, Rhode Island.
The important link here is that George Clinton and George Washington were both members of the Holland Lodge, wherein Dewitt had made clear that Muslims were welcomed as “friends and brothers.” Muhammad also notes that the Qur’an is among the religious scriptures welcome in Masonic assemblies.
I also want to bring attention to George Washington’s “Masonic character” speech, which is also highlighted by Muhammad. Washington stated:
It must be made obvious to a mind of the least reflection, that were Masonry to prescribe particular tenets and opinions in religion for her votaries, that it would be utterly incompatible with the universality of the Order. For this, and the reasons before mentioned, she has wisely avoided an explicit patronage of any theological creed.
To which Muhammad responds:
The commitment to unity across religious divisions articulated inside the walls of the Holland Lodge was not unlike the commitment to religious freedom outside the walls, clearly defined in the First Amendment of the Bill of Right’s adopted just two years earlier… Like the Masons, America too had “wisely avoided an explicit patronage of any theological creed” in order to preserve its union and universality.