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.