Thursday, November 30, 2006

Much ado about just a little something -- twice

Posted by Craig Westover | 7:52 PM |  

When I read Minnesota Monitor’s account of the Dennis Prager column criticizing Kieth Ellison for taking the oath of office on the Qur’an rather than the Bible, I was inclined to toss them a nod and agree. Then I read Prager’s column. Yes, he goes a little over the top, but the point of his column is well-taken.
When all elected officials take their oaths of office with their hands on the very same book, they all affirm that some unifying value system underlies American civilization. If Keith Ellison is allowed to change that, he will be doing more damage to the unity of America and to the value system that has formed this country than the terrorists of 9-11. It is hard to believe that this is the legacy most Muslim Americans want to bequeath to America. But if it is, it is not only Europe that is in trouble.
Over the top --yes, but he makes a valid point -- America is a country founded on unifying value system, not blood lines. That system is reflected in Judeo-Christian values, but not necessarily a result of them. Swearing on the Bible is traditional, like the raising of the right hand instead of the left. It’s the tradition that has meaning, not the individual pieces.

Tradition is important to Conservatives and shouldn’t be treated lightly. Tradition is what holds countries and cultures together, which is why it does roil conservatives when American tradition is compromised at every turn to accommodate every new influence. Prager’s analogy of everyone replacing the Bible with his favorite book reflects that notion.

Personally, while I appreciate and agree with Prager’s point of view, I can’t get as worked up about it as he does (nor as upset with Prager as many liberals seem to be). If Ellison wants to take the oath on the Qur’an, so be it. I do think, however, he misses an opportunity. I think he might have made a more symbolically unifying statement by taking the oath on the Bible, highlighting the integration of his Islamic faith with the values and traditions of Congress.

The Bible is also a holy book in Islam; the primary difference between the Bible and the Qur’an in Islam is the Bible was written and translated by men and is subject to error while the Qur’an was dictated by God in Arabic just as it is written. It is without error. It takes preference over the sayings of Mohammad, which even though written by the Prophet are considered works of man, not Allah. It would not have been a theological or moral stretch for Ellison to take the oath on the Bible and would have been a strong gesture conciliation.

Ellison has his reasons for taking the oath on the Qur’an and without knowing his mind, I accept that they are sincere. Nonetheless, I think he missed the opportunity to reach out and bring people together.