Trivia time

The Statue of Liberty was originally intended to be a sculpture of a Muslim woman

(DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images)

As debate in the U.S. rages over whether to accept Syrian refugees, and attitudes toward Muslims are reaching a fevered pitch in some corners of America, many might be surprised to learn about the roots of one of America’s most iconic symbols. According to a report in The Smithsonian, the sculpture that eventually became the Statue of Liberty was first conceived to depict a Muslim peasant woman. French sculptor Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi originally designed his “New Colossus” as an 86-foot statue that he imagined would stand in the Suez Canal, a manmade waterway connecting the Red Sea and the Mediterranean Sea, at Egypt’s Port Said. The statue of a Muslim woman holding a torch, that was meant to function as a lighthouse, above her head was conceived to be a symbol of progress. But the proposed project ran into some political interference from Egypt’s ruler, Isma’il Pasha, who dismissed the idea in 1855 over concerns that costs associated with its construction would be too high.

(STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images)

(STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images)

Bartholdi went back to the drawing board with his designs and came up with a blueprint for the copper sculpture that the world now knows as Lady Liberty. The rest is history — France gave the statue to the U.S. as a gift in 1886 after it was built by Gustave Eiffel (of Eiffel Tower fame). It was shipped to the U.S. in pieces and assembled on Liberty Island, where it stands — at 305 feet high from ground to torch — today. Over the years, the copper color turned green, and the symbolism of immigration associated with it has endured for more than a century. Indeed, words from Emma Lazarus’ poem “The New Colossus” were engraved on the statue’s base in 1903, 17 years after her death.

“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-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Lazarus’ sonnet depicted the statue as the “Mother of Exiles,” an identity that endures and that many Americans grapple with to this day.

Read the full story at The Huffington Post.

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