Friday, December 22, 2006


Democratic House Representative Keith Ellison

The recent outcry raised by Virginia Republican Virgil H. Goode Jr. over the fact that Keith Ellison, a convert to Islam and the US Congress's first Muslim (Democratic) representative, chose to use the Quran during his private swearing-in ceremony in January, is the kind of narrow-minded parochialism that scares me. According to the New York Times, in a letter written on December 5, Goode
said that Americans needed to "wake up" or else there would "likely be many more Muslims elected to office and demanding the use of the Koran"
I have no doubt that Goode will be castigated by the American political mainstream for his comments. I am also confident that civil rights organizations, including Jewish groups such as the American Jewish Committee, will be among the first to come to Ellison's defence. After all, they've been fighting this kind of bigotry since the early 20th century. Nevertheless, these kinds of sentiments are a reminder that there are still people in North America - and they exist in the US as well as in Canada - who need some basic lessons in tolerance. I found Ellison's response especially encouraging. In an interview, Ellison declared:
I’m not a religious scholar, I’m a politician, and I do what politicians do, which is hopefully pass legislation to help the nation ... I’m looking forward to making friends with Representative Goode, or at least getting to know him ... I want to let him know that there's nothing to fear. The fact that there are many different faiths, many different colors and many different cultures in America is a great strength.


Amos said...

Did you know that Dennis Prager came out against Ellison being sworn in on the Quran? Here's what he had to say back in November:

Insofar as a member of Congress taking an oath to serve America and uphold its values is concerned, America is interested in only one book, the Bible. If you are incapable of taking an oath on that book, don't serve in Congress."

See Rebecca's November 28 post about this on her blog Mystical Politics. She also has a link to the ADL's condemnation of Prager's remarks. American Jewish organizations will not allow the kind of bigotry demonstrated by Goode to go unchallenged.

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Matthew said...

The best commentary that I have read on this situation was at The Head Heeb.

It seems Goode and his ilk are trying to overturn at least eleven centuries of precedent from Europe, albeit a mere two and a half from the British tradition.

Amos said...

Thanks for reading, Matthew. While I obviously agree with the spirit of The Head Heeb's post, I think the English story is a little more complicated than he makes it out to be. After all, it took until 1858 for Lionel de Rothschild to be able to take his seat in Parliament without swearing "on the true faith of a Christian"; he had first been elected in 1847. Oxford and Cambridge had a similar formula until 1871.