WASHINGTON – Keith Ellison made history Thursday, becoming the first Muslim member of Congress and punctuating the occasion by taking a ceremonial oath with a Quran once owned by Thomas Jefferson.
“Look at that. That’s something else,” Ellison, D-Minn., said as officials from the Library of Congress showed him the two-volume Quran, which was published in London in 1764.
A few minutes later, Ellison took the oath with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., at his side.
Ellison had already planned to be sworn in using a Quran rather than a Bible. He learned last month about Jefferson’s Quran, with its multicolored cover and brown leather binding, and arranged to borrow it.
Ellison, the first black member of Congress from Minnesota, was born in Detroit and converted to Islam in college.
In a brief interview Thursday on his way to a vote, Ellison suggested he had tired of the whole issue of his using the Quran.
“It was good, we did it, it’s over, and now it’s time to get down to business,” he said.
Some critics have argued that only a Bible should be used for the swearing-in. Last month, Virginia Rep. Virgil Goode, R-Va., warned that unless immigration is tightened, “many more Muslims” will be elected and follow Ellison’s lead.
Ellison approached Goode on the House floor Thursday, introducing himself and offering to meet for coffee. According to Ellison, Goode said he’d be interested in doing that. The subject of Goode’s comments didn’t come up, Ellison said.
“Look, we’re trying to build bridges,” Ellison said.