Keith Ellison, Thomas Jefferson's Quran and America's embrace of diversity

Keith Ellison made history Thursday (4 Jan, 2007), becoming the first Muslim member of Congress and punctuating the occasion by taking a ceremonial oath with a Quran once owned by Thomas Jefferson. The news has significant on a number of grounds when it comes to embracing diversity, and also the controversies point to the fact of mental block in the so called 'conservative camp'.

"Look at that. That's something else,'' Ellison, D-Minn., said as officials from the Library of Congress showed him the two-volume Quran, which was published in London in 1764. A few minutes later, Ellison took the ceremonial oath with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., at his side. Ellison had already planned to be sworn in using a Quran, rather than a Bible. He learned last month about Jefferson's Quran, with its multicolored cover and brown leather binding, and arranged to borrow it.

The Quran 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. Jefferson, the nation's third president, was a collector of books in all topics and languages.

Ellison, the first black member of Congress from Minnesota, was born in Detroit and converted to Islam in college. He said earlier this week that he chose to use this Quran because it showed that a visionary like Jefferson believed that wisdom could be gleaned from many sources.

Ellison approached Goode on the House floor, who harshly criticized the congressman over the Quran oath, introducing himself and offering to meet for coffee. According to Ellison, Goode said he'd be interested in doing that. The subject of Goode's comments didn't come up, Ellison said.

"Look, we're trying to build bridges,'' Ellison said. "We're trying to help bring about understanding. We don't want issues of misunderstanding and division to exist if they don't have to.'' Ellison's mother, Clida Ellison, said in an interview that she thought any controversy over her son's choice was good, "because many people in America are going to learn what the diversity of America is all about.''

She described herself as a practicing Catholic. "I go to Mass every day'' she said.

Some critics have argued that only a Bible should be used for the swearing-in. Detroit free press writes in the article titled, Be America, and end religious hypocrisy

Are we America or not? Each time that we, the people, have a chance to show how much we embrace the diversity of culture that was once this country's hallmark, we let someone put their foot in our mouths.

Keith Ellison planned to take his oath of office on his copy of the Quran. The very idea prompted some hate-mongers to demand that he use a more common religious book, the Bible, and a radio host I never heard of announced that "America is interested in only one book, the Bible."

Of course, he was wrong. (continue reading here)

An American Muslims has a nice article link to his blog, Irony about this Ellison thing.

Backgroud: Here are some of the previous controversies about the oath and interviews of Keith Ellison.
:: Abdi Anyte on Keith Ellison's swearing in
:: Wolf Blitzer Interview Keith Ellison
:: Goode's letter: demonstrates racism and Islamophobia?
:: Keith Ellison Address at CAIR Convention
:: Fox news about controversy about Quran oath
:: Keith on CNN Headline News
:: Virgile Goode's controversy

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Technology of the Heart: Keith Ellison, Thomas Jefferson's Quran and America's embrace of diversity
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