Muslim Congressman will use Thomas Jefferson’s Quran for swearing in

The first Muslim elected to Congress says he will take his oath of office using a Quran once owned by Thomas Jefferson to make the point that “religious differences are nothing to be afraid of.”

Rep.-elect Keith Ellison, D-Minn., decided to use the centuries-old Quran during his ceremonial swearing-in on Thursday after he learned that it is kept at the Library of Congress. Jefferson, the nation’s third president and a collector of books in all topics and languages, sold the book to Congress in 1815 as part of a collection.

“It demonstrates that from the very beginning of our country, we had people who were visionary, who were religiously tolerant, who believed that knowledge and wisdom could be gleaned from any number of sources, including the Quran,” Ellison said in a telephone interview Wednesday.

“A visionary like Thomas Jefferson was not afraid of a different belief system,” Ellison said. “This just shows that religious tolerance is the bedrock of our country, and religious differences are nothing to be afraid of.”

Some critics have argued that only a Bible should be used for the swearing-in. Last month, Rep. Virgil Goode, R-Va., warned that unless immigration is tightened, “many more Muslims” will be elected and follow Ellison’s lead. Ellison was born in Detroit and converted to Islam in college.

Ellison said an anonymous person wrote to tell him about the Quran, and he arranged with the Library of Congress to use it. The chief of the Library of Congress’ rare book and special collections division, Mark Dimunation, will walk the Quran across the street to the Capitol and bring it back after the ceremony.

Ellison’s decision to use Jefferson’s Quran was first reported by The Washington Post on Wednesday.

Jefferson was born in Albemarle County, in what is now Goode’s congressional district in central Virginia. Goode’s office did not return phone and e-mail messages left Wednesday.

An English translation of the Arabic, Jefferson’s Quran was published in 1764 in London, a later printing of one originally published in 1734.

“This is considered the text that shaped Europe’s understanding of the Quran,” Dimunation said.

It was acquired in 1815 as part of a more than 6,400-volume collection that Jefferson sold for $24,000 to replace the congressional library that had been burned by British troops the year before, in the War of 1812.

“It was a real bargain,” Dimunation said.

The Quran survived an 1851 fire in the Capitol. Dimunation described it as a two-volume work, bound in leather with marble boards.

“As a rare book librarian,” he said, “there is something special about the idea that Thomas Jefferson’s books are being walked across the street to the Capitol building, to bring in yet another session of governmental structure that he helped create.”

Copyright © 2007 The Associated Press

Comments

  1. sarah a. grinnage

    well isnt it true that thomas jefferson was one of the signers of the declaration of independance?which the words “we hold these truths to be self evident that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, that among them are life,liberty and the persuit of happiness.” isnt that the quran? noble ideas taken from the quran by people who at that time were fighting for their independance from mother england.and publlished a document actually saying that the nation is muslim, while hiding the truth from the majority?

  2. sarah a. grinnage

    well isnt it true that thomas jefferson was one of the signers of the declaration of independance?which the words “we hold these truths to be self evident that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, that among them are life,liberty and the persuit of happiness.” isnt that the quran? noble ideas taken from the quran by people who at that time were fighting for their independance from mother england.and publlished a document actually saying that the nation is muslim, while hiding the truth from the majority?

  3. Route66

    As noted previously the official swearing in was done en-masse with no religious books or documents. I watched Rep. Ellison’s photo-op with the Speaker, and it was just that — no words or oath were spoken.

    Rep. Virgil Goode seems to be just another stupid bigot. This has nothing to do with immigration, and everything to do with ignorance and hatred. Not only was Ellison born in the US, his family has been here (legally) since the 1740s, probably long before Goode’s ancestors fell off the boat, and certainly centuries before Goode stumbled back on the turnip truck.

  4. Bill

    Another Jefferson comment apropos to this discussion: “Shake off all the fears of servile prejudices, under which weak minds are servilely crouched. Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call on her tribunal for every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason than that of blindfolded fear.”

  5. Bill

    If I was going to speculate whether TJ was “spinning in his grave” about his copy of the Koran being used today, I’d prefer to think of his own words instead. Wasn’t it he who said something to the effect “I care not whether a man believes in one god, twenty gods or no god–it neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.” As for the congressman’s reelection chances, why don’t we wait and see what his constituents say? If you have that much of a problem with him, move to Minnesota and vote against him:-)

  6. Calico_jack

    “The New Testament is ignored in spirit and in word by 100% of all modern Christians, all of whom practise greed, luxury, revenge and usury.”

    Come on now, 100%? have you interviewed EVERY christian on Earth? They ALL WITHOUT ONE EXCEPTION practice luxury? There’s not one nun or priest selflessly providing antibiotics to children with TB in Haiti, or sheltering Katrina victims, or building houses in Somalia? … or maybe you just don’t tend to hear about those people?