Row over first Muslim congressman’s Koran swearing-in
The man who will become the US Congress’ first Muslim member is under fire from conservatives because he plans to use the Koran during his ceremonial swearing-in.
The decision by Keith Ellison, a Democrat, to use Islam’s holy book for next month’s ceremony instead of a bible triggered an angry column by Dennis Prager on the website Townhall.com.
Prager, who is Jewish, headlined the post: “America, Not Keith Ellison, decides what book a congressman takes his oath on.” He argued that using the Koran for the ceremony “undermines American civilisation”.
“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,” he wrote. “If you are incapable of taking an oath on that book, don’t serve in Congress.”
His criticism has been taken up by other conservative bloggers, but Ellison’s incoming chief of staff, Kari Moe, dismissed the row.
“I think the criticism is being flamed by the politics of division that were rejected in the ’06 election cycle,” said Moe, who worked for 10 years for the late Democratic senator Paul Wellstone.
Moe noted in a telephone interview that the tradition was for all members of Congress to be sworn in together on the House floor. It was in the photo-opportunity ceremony that a bible was used – or, in Ellison’s case, the Koran.
But Prager said the ceremony was no less significant than the actual swearing-in.
“That’s the whole point: it’s exactly because it’s ceremonial that it matters to me,” he said. “Ceremonies matter. Ceremonies are exceedingly important. That is the way a society states what is most significant to it.”
Prager said the issue was not about freedom of religion.
“I want Jews like myself to take the oath on the Bible, even though the New Testament is not our bible,” he said.
Asked if it would be a problem for a Jewish politician to take the oath on a bible that included only the Old Testament, Prager said it would, because the point was to honour “the bible of this country”.
Ellison won an open House seat in November’s elections to replace long-time Democratic Rep Martin Sabo, who is retiring.
To me it don’t matter what book he swears on as
1. America does not have an official religion (or language!)
This is substantiated by the fact that the Ten Commandments cant be displayed in Courthouses etc.
2. The fact he going to swear on the Koran will make the oath more important to him as the Koran is what he belives in. If he swears on the bible that will mean nothing to him. Jewish members of congress really should only swear on the Old Testament!
3. How in gods name does the Koran “undermines American civilisation” (Prager). I dont get it? Does that mean the bible undermines Iranian civilisation? Its a holy book on how one should live ones life to be close to god. Obviously Prager never read the Koran.
I really hate American conservatives!