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