When Rashida Tlaib stands on Jan. 3 for her ceremonial swearing in as the first Palestinian-American woman elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, it will be with her hand on a copy of the Quran.
But this won’t be just any Quran: She will use Thomas Jefferson’s personal copy of George Sale’s 1734 translation of the Quran into English, a two-volume work that resides in the Library of Congress.
“It’s important to me because a lot of Americans have this kind of feeling that Islam is somehow foreign to American history,” said Tlaib, who also will become, with Minnesota’s Ilhan Omar, one of the first two Muslim women sworn into the U.S. House. “Muslims were there at the beginning. … Some of our founding fathers knew more about Islam than some members of Congress now.”
She won’t be surprised, however, if her using the Quran raises hackles for some people who believe she shouldn’t be allowed to do so. Twelve years ago, when U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., used the same Quran for his swearing in as Congress’ first Muslim member, some commentators argued that only a Bible was suitable for the purpose.
Already, conservative pastor and radio commentator E.W. Jackson has complained following Tlaib’s and Omar’s elections that, “The floor of Congress is now going to look like an Islamic republic” and argued that the U.S. is a “Judeo-Christian country.”