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The Unfamiliar AbodeIslamic Law in the United States and Britain$
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Kathleen Moore

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780195387810

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195387810.001.0001

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The Qur’an and American Politics

The Qur’an and American Politics

(p.81) 3 The Qur’an and American Politics
The Unfamiliar Abode

Kathleen M. Moore (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter focuses on the semiotics of sacred texts, and specifically the Qur'an as a signifier of verity. It examines the cultural logic of symbols and public service, beginning with the small but significant symbolic decision of the first American Muslim elected to Congress to substitute the Qur'an for the more commonly used Bible for his swearing-in ceremony. U.S. Representative Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) was elected to Congress in November 2006, in an election that marked a momentous event in American history. Not only was the first Muslim elected to Congress, but the first two Buddhists also were. When Ellison announced his choice of the Qur'an for his re-enactment of the oath of office, a media panic ensued in which the category of “Muslim” was inextricably tied with terrorism. Conservative talk show hosts decried this choice for its lack of Americanness, while major metropolitan newspapers published op-ed pieces that celebrated the diversity of America. The chapter analyzes the narrative representations of America against the backdrop of the threat to national identity represented by Ellison's choice of the Qur'an. It then proceeds to look at the use of a sacred text in the swearing in of witnesses in courtroom trials, another controversy involving the use of the Qur'an to ensure verbal truth telling. Every system of meaning has mechanisms for interpreting the veracity of truth claims and qualifications for public trust. The reliance on a sacred text in a ceremonial oath to confirm the trustworthiness of a public servant is examined in this case, where the dominant text (the Bible) is displaced by a rival (the Qur'an). The election of a Muslim congressman for the first time perhaps unexpectedly engendered in mainstream society not more ease with an advancing diversity in America, as much as unease with a sense of whiteness under siege in the world at large.

Keywords:   Que'an, Islam, American Muslim, Representative Keith Ellison

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