Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Keith Ellison on religion and politics, take 2

I posted about this earlier, but couldn’t resist calling attention to this from Rep. Ellison:

The Quran is "definitely an important historical document in our national history and demonstrates that Jefferson was a broad visionary thinker who not only possessed a Quran, but read it," Ellison said in an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 Jefferson’s 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 there’s any evidence for this claim. All I could find in TJ’s 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 there’s anything other than evidence that Jefferson might have followed Pufendorf’s 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: Here’s more, including a link to a indeterminately reliable summary of the aforementioned article.

Bottom line: in Thomas Jefferson’s 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 Jefferson’s mill. If that’s all that Rep. Ellison means, I’ve got no problem with it, though I expect that too many imams would.

Discussions - 2 Comments

Jefferson, like many figures in the Enlightenment, was a syncretist and likely read the Koran to glean out passages that comported with his understanding of universal truths. One suspects this view does not endear him to Muslim believers anymore than it endears him to Christian believers. So, either Ellison is being disingenuous, or he’s not terribly informed on the overall thrust of Jefferson’s intellectual pursuits.

I don’t know if TJ went to the trouble to taking a razor to the Koran, as he did with the New Testament. In the case of the Gospels he turned Jesus into a kindly philosopher and doer of good works and Jefferson excised from the Gospels what his rational mind couldn’t accept, i.e., miracles, resurrection, etc.

You silly dolts that is what I was saying all along! Ellison is informed on the overall thrust of Jefferson’s intellectual persuits. But if using Jeffersonian Hermenetics on the Koran is disinginuous then you have already answered your questions concerning the true nature of Islam. If you reading the Koran in a charitable fashion is disingenuous, then you simply must say: Islam is violent end of story. The man is a politician for Allah’s sake! And if I am correct I can hardly see how or why Dr. Knippenburg would want to socratically interogate him. Feed him softballs! Let him bluff...let him utter end of history pronouncements. Give him a pass, it is good for american and european society to integrate lets not stir the pot up too much, because unlike stirred soup the ingredients seperate like hemoglobin in a centrifuge. The intellectual desire for consitency must be subjegated to prudential considerations.

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