Fri 5 Jan 2007
The new Congress was sworn in and Nancy Pelosi took over as Speaker of the House. As the news outlets like the Detroit Free Press noted, this was quite a cause for celebration (“It’s a blessed day. I’m so glad the Republicans are out. Look at the price of gas, man. It’s ridiculous.”) Even John Boehner said “Whether you’re a Republican, a Democrat or an independent, today is a cause for celebration.”
Despite my mild frustration over hearing all of the recycled campaign slogans repeated by the media about how the Democratic Congress is going to champion the middle class, families, and small furry animals — I know that ‘to the victors goes the spoils’… and they should enjoy their honeymoon while it lasts.
One of the post-election dust-ups was over new Representative Keith Ellison’s decision to take the ceremonial photo op posing with a Quran rather than a Bible. I understand the point of Dennis Prager (who did not deserve the villification he got over his comments), but to me it did not seem to be anything to be up in arms about. I am sad to see when tradition is thrown out, but not improved. And while I think Dennis is correct that the Bible has been the unifying piece that really has held the fabric of American culture together, I don’t feel that the Bible’s status is either enhanced or diminshed by forcing Ellison’s choice of accessory for his photo session.
So to this point, I had nothing to say about it.
I knew that it would certainly be mentioned yesterday, given the buzz surrounding the reaction to Prager’s earlier comments. But I was caught by surprise by all of the coverage of Thomas Jefferson’s Quran/Koran/Qur’an being used as the prop. In some way, it was suggested, the use of that book once owned by a founding father somehow put the situation to rest and trumped the opinions of anyone who was against its use.
I was even more surprised to see comments Ellison made about that particular Quran in an interview with MSNBC/Newsweek:
NEWSWEEK: Your swearing in is historic in some senses. How did you come up with the idea of being sworn in with a Qur’an owned by Thomas Jefferson?
Keith Ellison: An individual wrote a letter to the office … It was like, “Wow, isn’t that interesting? Here’s a book that was owned by Thomas Jefferson, a towering figure of American democracy” … Clearly [Jefferson] thought it contained information that he wanted to know about … It just demonstrates that at the very earliest moments of this country, religious tolerance was a principle that one of the Founding Fathers was relying on.
Wow! Never knew that Jefferson had a copy of the Quran, let alone used it’s principles to shape our country.
Ellison also invoked more Jeffersonian approval:
The very foundation of our nation, the authors of our Constitution impressed, is religious freedom, and the use of Jefferson’s Koran shows that the founders not only knew of the Koran but also used it.
This is a pretty amazing revelation. And complete poppycock.
An absolute must-read comes from the Independent Conservative, who shreds Ellison’s sound bites about Jefferson’s love of the Quran. I won’t spoil the read, but I thought that I give you at least one treat:
Given Jefferson’s library had religious books from around the world and various times. His owning a Koran does not prove any reverence for Islam any more than his copy of “William King’s Historical Account of the Heathen Gods and Heroes”, which was a popular book of that time, but not regarded as something to revere.
While there is clearly room for any religious belief (including Muslims, Muslim-converts, atheists, or worse) for a member of Congress, and while every one of those members has every right to generate a little publicity for their pet ’cause’… I would be *very* careful before pushing revisionist history about the founding of the country and the importance of the Quran in the formation of America.