Thursday, October 25, 2007

Quran to Oklahoma Legislators:
Not the Worst Idea

The Oklahoma Governor's Ethnic American Advisory Council (EAAC) decided to give each of the state's 149 senators and representatives a copy of the Quran. Personalized, embossed with their names.

Not the worst idea I've heard of. Although Muslims are a small minority in Oklahoma, Islam is very much in the public's mind. Encouraging the Oklahoma leadership to get informed about Islam's holy book makes sense.

EAAC even sent an email to the proposed recipients, asking them if they wanted a copy, last Sunday.

Chairwoman of EAAC and Muslim Marjaneh Seirafi-Pour said the Quran was a way to introduce EAAC to Oklahoma lawmakers so they can use it as a resource to "serve their offices and constituents." Oklahoma lawmakers got a copy of another holy book, the Bible, earlier this year from The Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.

"In the spirit of commemorating Oklahoma's 100th anniversary of statehood, the Governor's Ethnic American Advisory Council is distributing the holy book of Quran to its legislative members," the email said. The Quran giveaway is supposed to be "inspired by a local church, which provided legislators with a copy of the Bible that bears the state's centennial seal. The Quran to be distributed also will bear the centennial seal, either on its jacket or on its first page, Seirafi-Pour said Tuesday, and members' names will be embossed in gold on the cover." ( Sounds spiffy. Pricey, but then these are state legislators: people in that class tend to be rather up-scale.

One of the Oklahoma leaders, in a televised interview, said that he first asked if any state money was being used to prepare and distribute the Qurans. The answer was 'no.' He declined, anyway, since he said that sending him the book wouldn't be a useful way to spend time and money. I failed to catch his name, confound it.

Some of the Oklahoma legislators declined politely, some made it into the headlines: "OK-Some legislators reject Ethnic American Advisory Council's Quran."

One of Oklahoma's representatives, Rex Duncan, said that he's read about the Quran on the Internet.

in his reply to the EAAC email, Duncan wrote "Please encourage you (!) fellow Oklahoma Muslims to speak out and condemn acts of violence committed in the name Muhammad and the Quran.

"Most Oklahomans do not endorse the idea of killing innocent women and children in the name of ideology" Fair enough. However, he says that the Quran supports that sort of killing. "That's exactly what it says," Duncan said. "I think it's pretty straightforward. By their own admission those are the exact words. They don't all practice that." (Duncan, about that Baptist Bible: "It's one of the nicest things I've received in my three years in the Legislature.")

EAAC's Seirafi-Pour, on Duncan's assessment of Islam: "I know he referred to Islam as an ideology. That is not a fact. It is a religion. It is very peaceful, very inclusive."

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) spokesman in Washington, characterized Duncan's characterization of the Quran and Islam as "disturbing" and "offensive" to Muslims. "It just points to the amount of education about Islam and the American Muslim community that is needed in all levels in our society, including elected officials," he said. I'd say Hooper is right.

Other (non-Muslim) people don't go as far as Duncan, but aren't on the same page as the EAAC. One blogger began his post with, "Is there only one kind of Ethnic American in Oklahoma?"

Here's the score, so far, in the Oklahoma legislature:
Total legislators:149
Asking that the Quran not be sent17
Thanking EAAC For the Quran5
Legislative Assistants Requesting Copy1

Not every legislator who asked to not receive a Quran had Duncan's attitude. Representative Scott Martin said 'thanks, but no thanks. David Derby made a don't-send reply, because he already had a copy of the Quran. Others were in the same position. Derby says he got his at Bible college.

As for me, I'd be happy to have a free Quran, as a research source. Providing it was in English. Having my name embossed on it? That's not so much of an incentive.

And, I hope we have more leaders like Martin and Derby, and fewer like Duncan.

Related posts, on tolerance, bigotry, racism, and hatred.

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Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.