Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Should Keith Ellison swear-in on the Qur'an

Keith Ellison (pictured left) made history during this mid-term election by becoming the first Muslim to be elected to the US Congress. Read more about him here.

Ever since his election the right wing media has been relentlessly attacking him. And that includes CNN, where Headline News has given Glen Beck, a crude talk-radio host a primetime slot to rant in a show that doubles as "news." Beck had Congressman-elect Ellison on his program recently. I couldn't believe that CNN would air this!

“I have been nervous,” said Beck, “about this interview with you because what I feel like saying is, ‘Sir, prove to me that you are not working with our enemies.’”

For an opinion piece by Jeff Cohen of the media watchdog group FAIR on Glen Beck and others like him who provide legitimacy for wars click here.

Keith Ellison is an African American and has moderate views on the Middle East. He recently indiated that he does not want to swear-in on the Bible, but on the Qur'an as I believe, is his right to do.

Now comes Dennis Prager, another right-wing radio host, who has a column this morning in -- a right wing blogsite suggesting that America not Keith Ellison decides which book he will place his hand as he takes the oath of office on January 3rd. Prager, of course, does not say which America he is going to ask and how he is going to ask it! That is to say his entire tirade is based on an outmoded view of a monolithic America (if ever there was one!)

Prof. Eugene Volokh of the UCLA School of Law has written a point-by-point rebuttal to Prager in the National Review online. On presidential swearing-ins he reminds us that Presidents Franklin Pierce and Herbert Hoover (a Quaker) didn’t swear at all, but rather affirmed. If a Bible was present it wouldn’t have been used as a swearing device. Nixon, also a Quaker, did swear, apparently on two Bibles. This didn’t seem to help!

His concluding two paragraphs are worthy of quote:

Much folly has been urged in the name of multiculturalism. But this is no reason to dismiss the core notion that a nation should both create a common culture and leave people with the freedom to retain important aspects of other cultures — especially religious cultures. That notion is deeply American, and expressly enshrined in our Constitution. If it is “political correctness,” it is so only in the sense that it’s a political notion, and a correct one. It has served us well, even when dealing with religious groups that were once hated and seen as incompatible with American values, such as Catholics.

We ought not blindly accept the legitimacy of other cultures’ beliefs. But the Constitution says that we can’t demand complete surrender to our majority culture — especially its religious beliefs — either in “personal life” or in public life.

This will be an interesting conversation leading upto January.


At 1:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You said the following:

"Headline News has given Glen Beck, a crude talk-radio host a primetime slot to rant in a show that doubles as news."

Crude???? Rant???

Why must you insult Glen Beck?

Beck does not rank. He makes his points in a clear and non-emotional way.

He is very - "to the point". Ranking simply does not apply.

Obviously, you disagree with his point of view. So, in your mind that makes him crude.

He does not use foul language or do anything that constitutes being crude. His only flaw is that you disagree with him.

So, in your mind this automatically registers him as being "crude". I was not aware that you set the standards for the entire world.

If I were to apply this simple-minded logic to you - then you too would also register as "crude".

Fortunatley for you, most people do not think in such selfish terms. A true believer in democracy respects that others are entitled to opions that differ from thier own. Then they just leave it at that. They do not resort to juvinile name calling as you have done.

Beck simply said that he is concerned about what this MAY ulitmately lead to - thats all.
It was not a mandate. It is just a concern - nothing more and nothing less. Just one mans opinion - that's all.

By the way, MANY people share that same concern. So, I guess that they are all "crude" too by your standards.

Like it or not - other people are entitled to opinions that differ from yours. Your verbal attacks serve as proof that you do not understand how democracy works.

Now, I am sure that my comments do not sit well with you. So, I can only guess that this makes me "crude" too.


At 4:43 PM, Blogger Elle said...

Glen Beck may certainly hold any opinion he likes, but that does not make the opinion any less ridiculous. His comments to Congressman Ellison were shocking and ignorant. No educated, well-spoken person would have ever uttered such words aloud. If he wanted to question Ellison's Muslim faith and what conflicts this might have with our interests in the Middle East, there would have been a better way to phrase this.

This whole debate is idiotic. Congress takes a official public oath to uphold the Constitution together with no Bible (or any other book) used. In a private ceremony, Congressman Ellison will recreate the event for cameras and take the oath with his hand on the Koran (which happens to be Thomas Jefferson's personal copy borrowed from the Library of Congress). Ellison is also not the first office holder to request something other than the Bible. From Beliefnet:

But Ellison would not be the first member of Congress to forgo a Bible. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., took her oath in 2005 on a Tanakh, the Hebrew Bible, she borrowed from Rep. Gary Ackerman, D-N.Y., after learning a few hours before that the speaker of the House didn't have any Jewish holy books.

Other politicians have departed from the Bible as well. Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle used the Tanakh when she took her oath in 2002, while Madeleine Kunin placed her hand on Jewish prayer books when she was sworn in as the first female governor of Vermont in 1985.

In 1825, John Quincy Adams took the presidential oath using a law volume instead of a Bible, and in 1853, Franklin Pierce affirmed the oath rather than swearing it. Herbert Hoover, citing his Quaker beliefs, also affirmed his oath in 1929 but did use a Bible, according to the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies. Theodore Roosevelt used no Bible in taking his first oath of office in 1901, but did in 1905.

Neither the House nor the Senate keeps record of what holy books, if any, are used in the unofficial ceremonies. In fact, House members are sworn in together on the House floor in a ceremony without any book, holy or otherwise. But in an unofficial ceremony, individual members re-enact an oath so it can be photographed. The tradition dates to the birth of photography, so congressmen could send photos back to their hometown newspapers.

The backlash against this is just silly. Congressman Ellison has handled the whole situation eloquently, the same way he dealt with the ignorant, reactionary questions of Glen Beck.


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