In his June 17 Denver Post column, John Andrews dubiously asserted that Muslim Congressman Keith Ellison's (D-MN) "decision to be sworn in on the Koran still echoes controversially." In fact, Ellison used the Quran for a ceremonial swearing-in photo; he was not officially sworn in on the Quran.
In a June 17 Denver Post column that posed the question, "Can a good Muslim be a good American?" John Andrews dubiously asserted that U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison's (D-MN) "decision to be sworn in [to Congress] on the Koran still echoes controversially." Andrews, however, failed to mention that while Ellison posed for a ceremonial swearing-in photo-op with his hand on the Quran, he was not officially sworn in on the religious text, as Media Matters for America noted.
Andrews began his column, titled "Muhammad and Jefferson," by recounting a conversation he had while "pass[ing] the Washington office of Congressman Keith Ellison, D-Minn., the first Muslim to serve there":
Can a good Muslim be a good American? Brian, a constitutional scholar, put the question to Michael, a national security expert, as we passed the Washington office of Congressman Keith Ellison, D-Minn., the first Muslim to serve there. Ellison's decision to be sworn in on the Koran still echoes controversially.
Almost 1 percent of our U.S. population are now Muslims, about 2.35 million in all. Most people know some, and we find them decent folks, pleasant to be with, no less than any other religious group. Unfortunately, that's beside the point for Brian's question to Michael.
Muslims can obviously be Americans. More and more are, by birth, immigration or conversion. The qualifier "good" is where it gets uncertain. If a "good" American is one who lives in fidelity to our nation's founding principles in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, and a good Muslim is one who lives in fidelity to his God-given scripture, the Koran, the concern is whether you can do both.
As Media Matters and Colorado Media Matters have noted, other conservative pundits have raised doubts about Ellison's commitment to his country by pointing to his Islamic faith. On the November 14, 2006, edition of his CNN Headline News program, Glenn Beck said to Ellison during an interview: "I have been nervous about this interview with you, because what I feel like saying is, 'Sir, prove to me that you are not working with our enemies.' " Similarly, on the January 3 broadcast of Fox News Radio 600 KCOL's Mornings with Keith and Gail!, co-host Gail Fallen asserted that "Ellison is bound to those edicts [of the Quran], rather than having to adhere to those stated in the U.S. Constitution."
Ellison asserted during a December 24, 2006, National Public Radio Weekend Edition broadcast that "the document that we all should focus on is not any religious text -- that's personal -- but the Constitution; that's where our focus needs to be. And the Constitution explicitly prohibits any government body from having a religious test for an elected official." Furthermore, as the weblog Think Progress reported, although "[o]ccasionally, Members pose for symbolic photo-ops" with their hand on a Bible, "neither the Christian Bible, nor any other religious text, ha[s] ever been used in an official capacity during the [swearing-in] ceremony."
In addition to repeating the conservative talking point about Ellison's use of the Quran during the ceremonial photo-op, Andrews referenced Thomas Jefferson but failed to mention that Ellison took his "ceremonial oath with a Quran once owned by Thomas Jefferson," according to The Washington Post. Andrews wrote, "How can Muhammad's teaching that women and unbelievers, especially Jews, are inferior square with Jefferson's 'all created equal'?" He added, "By some interpretations, the Koran forbids a good Muslim from giving any allegiance whatsoever to the nation-state, and hence from obeying civil laws made by any secular government. Sharia, the religious laws proceeding from Allah's books and clergy, alone warrant obedience according to this strain of Islam."