U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., delivered a lesson to critics today on the value of knowing history.
First, Los Angeles conservative radio host Dennis Prager embarrassed himself by calling on Ellison to use a Christian Bible to put his left hand on while being sworn in as a Member of Congress, the first Moslem to be a Member. Ellison pointed out that in the swearing-in ceremony, no book is used, and noted that other religious texts have been used by people of other faiths during the photo session afterward, when members re-enact the swearing in with the Speaker of the House. Prager compounded his history sins by refusing to back down. Ellison correctly stood his ground.
Then Virginia’s U.S. Rep. Virgil Goode pushed it farther, warning that unless we control immigration, Ellison will be the beachhead for a Moslem take-over of Congress. Ellison, defending the Bill of Rights, stood his ground and refused to get into a name-calling discussion.
Then Roy Moore of Alabama, who was rejected by voters for governor after having made a spectacle of himself and the Alabama Supreme Court over his efforts to install his own religious shrine in the Supreme Court Building, called for Ellison to be denied his seat. Ellison coolly ignored Moore, defending the First Amendment instead.
Now Ellison has acted, and his action comprises a neat, clean and witty rebuttal to the critics.
Ellison, who maintained a cool detachment through most of these squalid attacks, has asked simply that the Library of Congress make available Thomas Jefferson’s personal copy of the Qur’an, for his swearing-in tomorrow, January 4, when the 110th Congress opens for business. (Here’s the story from the Washington Post. Here is the story from NPR’s “All Things Considered.“)
No one in their right mind will object to the use of one of Thomas Jefferson’s books at the photo op. Notice that I’m leaving open the opportunity for Ellison’s critics to demonstrate they are not in their right minds. Ellison has one-upped his critics, calmly and politely, by demonstrating his superior grasp of history, the history of the Library of Congress, the history of Thomas Jefferson, and the history of religious freedom in the U.S.
Jefferson purchased the book, an English translation of teh Qur’an, probably in 1765, and he referred to Qur’anic law and ideas many times when he proposed new laws for an American republic (see especially Notes on the State of Virginia) and when he proposed laws to secure religious freedom, such as the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom.
Santaya’s ghost is smiling. (No kidding — see photo below.)
Tip of the old scrub brush to Ed Brayton and Dispatches from the Culture Wars.