Thursday, January 04, 2007

1st Muslim congressman uses Thomas Jefferson's personal copy of the Qur'an for private swearing in

Ellison to swear in with Thomas Jefferson’s Quran
January 4, 2007
Free Press Staff Writer

The first Muslim elected to Congress said he will use a copy of the Quran once owned by Thomas Jefferson during his swearing-in ceremony today.

Keith Ellison, a Detroit native and Minnesota Democrat, told a group of metro Detroit leaders last week that he asked the Library of Congress for a copy of the Muslim holy book that Jefferson had purchased. An official with the library, Matt Raymond, confirmed on Wednesday that it would lend the book to Ellison for his oath of office during an individual ceremony today with new House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Ellison ignited a national controversy after some commentators slammed him for saying he would take the oath of office on the Quran. And U.S. Rep. Virgil Goode, a Virginia Republican, warned that the election of Ellison could be the start of a dangerous trend of Muslims being elected to office.

Ellison was asked about the Quran controversy during a meeting in Detroit on Dec. 27 with immigration, Catholic, Arab-American and Muslim leaders.

“I need to really study why it’s such an important and explosive cultural phenomenon because it still kind of eludes me a little bit,” Ellison said. “I’m sort of looking at it like, you know, my faith is my business, and you can trust that I will be as honest as I can be.”

He added, “I never thought it was a big deal. Still, I’m a little incredulous about why anyone would care what I’m going to swear on.”

Ellison, born and raised in Detroit as a Catholic, converted to Islam while in college and has received support from Muslims across Michigan and the United States. He said he would not impose Islam on anyone, but “in terms of political agenda items, my faith informs these things.” Ellison said that his decision to swear on the Quran came about after someone asked him about it before his election primary. “

These members of the Somali (Muslim) community were just wildly excited about the prospect of somebody from their community winning,” Ellison said. “So they just wanted to ask every question.” Regarding the controversy, Ellison said, “People feel extremely threatened by it.”These days, Ellison added, “so many people in the Muslim community are feeling this tremendous vulnerability.”

Dawud Walid, head of the Michigan branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, praised Ellison's decision to use Jefferson's Quran, saying that it was an example of how Islam helped influence the founding fathers of the United States.

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