I’m no fan of Ellison, but I know a brilliant political stroke when I see one.
We’ve learned that the new congressman — in a savvy bit of political symbolism — will hold the personal copy once owned by Thomas Jefferson.
“He wanted to use a Koran that was special,” said Mark Dimunation, chief of the rare book and special collections division at the Library of Congress, who was contacted by the Minnesota Dem early in December. Dimunation, who grew up in Ellison’s 5th District, was happy to help.
Jefferson’s copy is an English translation by George Sale published in the 1750s; it survived the 1851 fire that destroyed most of Jefferson’s collection and has his customary initialing on the pages.
One person unlikely to be swayed by the book’s illustrious history is [Rep. Virgil] Goode, who released a letter two weeks ago objecting to Ellison’s use of the Koran…
Goode, who represents Jefferson’s birthplace of Albemarle County, had no comment yesterday.
Maybe there’s a compromise at work here. As I understand it, the Koran isn’t really the Koran unless it’s in Arabic. To wit: “The Prophet Muhammad inwardly heard the Arabic verses of the Koran. He did not simply encounter the Divine Meaning and compose his own words to express it. Therefore, no translation of the Arabic Koran into any language can be the Holy Koran, but is simply a human interpretation, which may be inspired but does not exist on the sublime level of revelation.” So, technically, he’s not swearing on the Koran. Happy now, Dennis Prager?
Update: Reader “Verbal Abuse” reminds us that Jefferson’s gloss on the Koran might not be the same as Ellison’s. Not only did he send the U.S. Navy to confront the Barbary pirates, but, as Bill Bennett quotes him, he once had a memorable encounter with an Arab ambassador:
When he served as America’s minister to France in the mid-1780s, Jefferson had once confronted an Arab diplomat, demanding to know by what right his country attacked Americans in the Mediterranean:
The Ambassador answered us that it was founded on the Laws of the Prophet, that it was written in their Koran, that all nations who should not have answered their authority were sinners, that it was their right and duty to make war upon them wherever they could be found, and to make slaves of all they could take as prisoners.