Curt at Flopping Aces highlights the very interesting history behind Thomas Jefferson's interest in the Koran, as published by the National Review in 2005.
Thomas Jefferson once questioned Sidi Haji Abdul Rahman Adja, the Tripolitan ambassador to Britain about the continuing piracy of the United States ships to which he told the future President that it was their duty as good Muslims to take the war to the unbeliever:Take, for example, the 1786 meeting in London of Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Sidi Haji Abdul Rahman Adja, the Tripolitan ambassador to Britain. As American ambassadors to France and Britain respectively, Jefferson and Adams met with Ambassador Adja to negotiate a peace treaty and protect the United States from the threat of Barbary piracy.
These future United States presidents questioned the ambassador as to why his government was so hostile to the new American republic even though America had done nothing to provoke any such animosity. Ambassador Adja answered them, as they reported to the Continental Congress, "that it was founded on the Laws of their Prophet, that it was written in their Koran, that all nations who should not have acknowledged their authority were sinners, that it was their right and duty to make war upon them wherever they could be found, and to make slaves of all they could take as Prisoners, and that every Musselman who should be slain in Battle was sure to go to Paradise."
The candor of that Tripolitan ambassador is admirable in its way, but it certainly foreshadows the equally forthright declarations of, say, the Shiite Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in the 1980s and the Sunni Osama bin Laden in the 1990s, not to mention the many pronouncements of their various minions, admirers, and followers. Note that America's Barbary experience took place well before colonialism entered the lands of Islam, before there were any oil interests dragging the U.S. into the fray, and long before the founding of the state of Israel.