Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Thomas Jefferson's Koran

The representative-elect from Michigan's 5th district will make history in more ways in one when he is sworn in tomrrow. Keith Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress, will also be the first to use Thomas Jefferson's personal copy of the Koran in his swearing-in ceremony. According to the Washington Post, Ellison contacted the Library of Congress' rare book division early last month; "He wanted to use a Koran that was special," said Mark Dimunation, the division chief.

Jefferson's Koran is a copy of the George Sale translation printed in the 1750s. It was part of the former president's library which he sold to the government after the War of 1812 to reconstitute the Library of Congress (after it was burned by the British). The copy survived an 1851 fire and contains Jefferson's customary initals.

Ellison's decision to hold a copy of the Koran in his swearing-in ceremony prompted an anti-Muslim screed from his Virginia colleague Virgil Goode (who represents the area where Jefferson was born). "Ellison will take the official oath of office along with the other incoming members in the House chamber, then use the Koran in his individual, ceremonial oath with new Speaker Nancy Pelosi," the Post reports.

I suspect, Virgil Goode notwithstanding, that Thomas Jefferson wouldn't mind in the slightest.