- Rep. Rashida Tlaib, one of the first two Muslim women elected to Congress, has denied using Thomas Jefferson’s English translated copy of the Quran for her swearing-in ceremony, as reports claimed
- Tlaib used her own Quran, passed down by a friend, as a statement about Islam’s role in American history and modern American society.
- Jefferson acquired his copy of the Quran while studying the law. His edition was originally meant to educate Christians about Islam so they could evangelize Muslims.
Democratic Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib, one of the first Muslim women elected to Congress, was sworn into office Thursday using a personal copy of the Quran.
Tlaib, the first Palestinian woman to take congressional office, insisted on using the Quran, ostensibly to make a positive statement about Islam’s place in U.S. history and the diversity of American society. She also reportedly wore a traditional Palestinian gown, called a thobe, for the ceremony. (RELATED: America’s First Two Muslim Congresswomen Officially Endorse Anti-Israel Legislation)
It was initially falsely reported that Tlaib used Thomas Jefferson’s 18th-century Quaran for her swearing-in. She has since denied such reports.
“My swearing-in on the (Quran) is about me showing that the American people are made up of diverse backgrounds and we all have love of justice and freedom,” Tlaib told the Detroit Free Press. “My faith has centered me. The prophet Mohammed was always talking about freedom and justice.”
Tlaib explained on Twitter that her Quran was “gifted” to her from a friend of “25 years.”
“It’s important to me because a lot of Americans have this kind of feeling that Islam is somehow foreign to American history,” Tlaib said of using Jefferson’s Quran. “Muslims were there at the beginning.”
Tlaib also said she is “going to be a voice for” Palestinians. After winning her congressional primary race, she gave a victory speech with the Palestinian flag draped around her shoulders. Many Palestinian women on social media hailed her announcement that she would wear a thobe during her swearing-in.
Every thobe is a dress embroidered with the stories, the loves, the tragedies of Palestinian women. The world will never be broken, because we will always stitch it back together & make it beautiful. #tweetyourthobe#palestinianwomen#palestinianamerican#rashidatlaib#congress pic.twitter.com/glNazfgHcL
— Susan Muaddi Darraj (@SusanDarraj) January 3, 2019
Today @RashidaTlaib will be sworn into Congress wearing a Palestinian Thobe just like the one I’m dancing Dabkeh in below— count one young Palestinian woman with a lump in her throat thinking about how far our people have come. #TweetYourThobe pic.twitter.com/mZ0lxGBTgR
— Shezza Abboushi Dallal (@ShezzaADallal) January 3, 2019
According to University of Texas Professor Denise Spellberg, Christians of Thomas Jefferson’s time used the Quran “as a book of law and a way to understand Muslims with whom they were interacting already pretty consistently, in the Ottoman Empire and in North Africa.”
Despite criticism over her choice to use a Quran and to promote her Palestinian heritage, Tlaib said she is undaunted.
“My mere existence, that I’m even of Muslim faith, is going to be a problem for them with or without me swearing in on any Koran,” she said.
Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this article reported that Tliab swore on the Thomas Jefferson’s Quran. Tliab has since refuted that it was Jefferson’s Quran. The story has been updated to reflect this change.
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