More Elected Muslim Public Officials Take Oath on the Qur’an
By Abdus Sattar Ghazali

The first Muslim Congressman, Keith Ellison's very public swearing-in on the Qur’an has inspired other Muslim elected officials to use the Muslim holy book in their ceremonies.
On Jan. 10, Maryland's first Muslim Democrat lawmaker, Saqib Ali, took oath of office on the Qur’an. Saqib was targeted by an anti-Muslim protester during his campaign. In August, the protester stood outside his house with an "Islam sucks" poster and a T-shirt that said, "This mind is an Allah-free zone."
About the protester Ali, a Pakistani-American said, it was disappointing that this kind of bigotry would still rear its head, but he understood it was an isolated incident.
There was no religious controversy as Ali took the oath of office with his colleagues. Maryland lawmakers do not hold their hands on a religious text while taking office.
In New Jersey three Muslim public officials took oath of office on the Qur’an. New Jersey's Herald News in Passaic County reported that "in this ethnically diverse borough, ceremonies during the annual reorganization meeting went off without a hitch.”
Three borough officials and a police officer set their right hand on the Qur’an as they promised to fulfill the duties of their job… The officials who swore on the Quran were Passaic County's first Muslim mayor, Mohamed Khairullah, Councilman Hassan Fahmy, police Sgt. Ammen Matari and (Borough Clerk Yancy) Wazirmas. Also like Ellison, the officials enjoyed wide support from constituents.
"In the audience sat Don White, a borough resident of 68 years. 'Everybody's entitled to their religion,' said White. 'A holy book is a holy book," said Eileen Potoak, another audience member.
Borough officials said it wasn't clear who the first Muslim was in Prospect Park to swear on the Qur’an. Two Muslims served on the borough council during the 1990s. Statewide, it's also unclear where or when the first Muslim swore on a Qur’an for an oath of office, said Samer Khalef, a member of the board of the New Jersey chapter of the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee. "We've had so few Muslims become elected that it's never come up," he said.
Passaic County's population has the second-highest percentage of Arab-Americans in the nation, at 2.19 percent, according to Jennifer Kauffman, spokeswoman for the Arab American Institute in Washington, DC. Kauffman cautioned not to confuse the term Arab with Muslim; in fact, most Arab-Americans are Christian, she said.
No law stipulates that oaths of office must be taken on the Bible or any other holy book.
Khairullah said it was his idea to display the Qur’an and the Bible together "as a show of religious unity," he said. No special stand was purchased -- they propped up the two books on the nameplate of a borough lawyer who wasn't there.



Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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