The Quran is "definitely an important historical document in our national history and demonstrates that Jefferson was a broad visionary thinker who not only possessed a Quran, but read it," Ellison said in an interview with the Free Press. "It would have been something that contributed to his own thinking."
Ellison said Friday that Jeffersons Quran "shows that from the earliest times of this republic, the Koran was in the consciousness of people who brought about democracy."
If there is a Jefferson scholar among our readers, he or she can tell me whether theres any evidence for this claim. All I could find in TJs searchable works were this reference to "the Alcoran of the Mahometans" (from a letter to John Tyler, May 26, 1810) and this mention of "Mahometan[s]" as included in the Virginia bill for establishing religious liberty.
I did come across this post, which cites these articles. Anyone who has access to more than an abstract of the former can tell me whether theres anything other than evidence that Jefferson might have followed Pufendorfs references to discern in certain passages of the Koran evidence of a ius gentium, which is certainly not in keeping with the spirit of that text.
Update: Heres more, including a link to a indeterminately reliable summary of the aforementioned article.
Bottom line: in Thomas Jeffersons world, Muslims are entitled to religious liberty, but their contributions to law and morality are the same as those of Christians. Where their rules and habits comport with reason and common sense, where they comprise part of or evidence for a universal consensus, they provide grist for Jeffersons mill. If thats all that Rep. Ellison means, Ive got no problem with it, though I expect that too many imams would.