First Mus­lim in Congress hails re­li­gious free­dom

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Brian DeBose

Rep. Keith El­li­son, who be­came the first Mus­lim in Congress on Jan. 4, said he was proud to take a cer­e­mo­nial oath of of­fice us­ing the Ko­ran once owned by Thomas Jef­fer­son — a plan that had trig­gered crit­i­cism.

“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,” said the Min­nesota Demo­crat, who used the his­toric vol­ume dur­ing a cer­e­mo­nial swear­ing-in of the Con­gres­sional Black Cau­cus.

Rep. Peter Hoek­stra, Michi­gan Repub­li­can, said, “It was much ado about noth­ing. All 435 mem­bers just took the oath, en masse, with­out any­one putting their hand on any book.”

Congress mem­bers of­ten use the Bi­ble in the nu­mer­ous cer­e­mo­nial swear­ing-ins on the first day of a new ses­sion, but the of­fi­cial ver­sion is con­ducted in uni­son in the House cham­ber.

Mr. El­li­son’s plan to use of the Ko­ran drew crit­i­cism from Rep. Vir­gil H. Goode Jr., Vir­ginia Repub­li­can, who sent an e-mail to his con­stituents say­ing that the use of the Ko­ran was im­proper.

“I fear that in the next cen­tury, we will have many more Mus­lims in the United States if we do not adopt the strict im­mi­gra­tion poli­cies,” Mr. Goode said last month.

The de­bate in­ten­si­fied through­out the Christ­mas sea­son.

Mr. Goode, who rep­re­sents Thomas Jef­fer­son’s an­ces­tral home­town of Charlottesville, set­tled the mat­ter on Jan. 4. He con- grat­u­lated Mr. El­li­son on his elec­tion vic­tory shortly be­fore the two were sworn in and said he val­ued free­dom of re­li­gion. But he stood by his po­si­tion. “While tol­er­ance is a hall­mark of our Judeo-Chris­tian na­tion, it is Is­lamic fun­da­men­tal­ism that pre­dom­i­nates in na­tions such as Iran and even among many Sun­nis and Shi’ites in Iraq, where it can hardly be said that tol­er­ance is the or­der of the day,” Mr. Goode said. “Our coun­try is, has been and will be bet­ter off rooted in Judeo-Chris­tian prin­ci­ples.”

Mr. El­li­son, the first black mem­ber of Congress from Min­nesota, was born in Detroit and con­verted to Is­lam in col­lege.

The Li­brary of Congress pro­vided the Ko­ran, which was pub­lished in Lon­don in 1764, that Mr. El­li­son used in a cer­e­mo­nial oath with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi at his side. So many of Mr. El­li­son’s fam­ily mem­bers at­tended the cer­e­mony that it was per­formed in two takes.

“To­day we are swear­ing in the largest num­ber of AfricanAmer­i­cans in the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives, and we are so pleased that the first Mus­lim elected is among them, Keith El­li­son,” said Mrs. Pelosi, Cal­i­for­nia Demo­crat.

In the Congress, there are 155 Catholics, 67 Bap­tists, 61 Methodists, 44 Pres­by­te­ri­ans, 43 Jews, 37 Epis­co­palians, 26 non­de­nom­i­na­tional Protes­tants, 18 non­de­nom­i­na­tional Chris­tians, 17 Luther­ans, 15 Mor­mons and 47 mem­bers of other reli­gions and de­nom­i­na­tions of Chris­tian­ity.

Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kil­patrick, Michi­gan Demo­crat and chair­man of the Con­gres­sional Black Cau­cus, said, “It was ab­so­lutely un­fair for [Mr. El­li­son] to have to go through this; we all raise our hands to the Lord here,” af­ter the CBC lead­er­ship was sworn in ear­lier in the day at the Li­brary of Congress.

As­so­ci­ated Press

Li­brar­ian of Congress James Billing­ton handed Kim El­li­son Thomas Jef­fer­son’s copy of the Ko­ran for the cer­e­mo­nial swear­ing-in of her hus­band, Rep. Keith El­li­son, Min­nesota Demo­crat.

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