A Muslim is coming to the United States House of Representatives, and he wants to be sworn into office with his hand on a Koran and not on a Holy Bible. Some conservatives have decided this may well be the end of American civilization. I wish I was kidding. Wrote one conservative, “He should not be allowed to do so — not because of any American hostility to the Koran, but because the act undermines American civilization.”
He goes on to argue that it is, among other things, an example of multicultural hubris. After all, “What Ellison and his Muslim and leftist supporters are saying is that it is of no consequence what America holds as its holiest book; all that matters is what any individual holds to be his holiest book.”
So the Bible is America’s holiest book? Really? Since when? If that sentence were technically accurate then, by fiat, every single person in America would be bound by the Bible. That would mean everyone in America lived by everything from Genesis to Revelation and that our government did as well. And if that were the case, then America, with its indifference to the poor and lust for money and power, would be seriously backsliding.
No, America has a single “holy” document. It is called the Constitution. Ok, maybe two — the Declaration of Independence. That’s it. Game over.
The Bible may be America’s most symbolically holy book. But that is only within the context of American civil religion. And only within the context of civil religion is there a question of whether or not the Koran can be used for a swearing in ceremony.
The answer is an easy one — yes. In courts across America today, people pledge to tell the truth and the whole truth without putting their hands on the Bible if they so choose. Courthouses from sea to shining sea sometimes display crèches or menorahs. President Bush participates in celebrating Ramadan. If Islam is good enough for President Bush, I suppose its holy book is good enough for a swearing in ceremony.