I’m not sure this is the right board for this… but—
I do not see the point in sending a religious book to lawmakers in the first place. Especially from the Governors Ethic American Advisory Council. Who funds the council? Are they going to provide other religious text embossed and for free as well? Wouldn’t a reading list have been more appropriate?
Lawmakers refuse copies of Quran
By M. Scott Carter
THE NORMAN TRANSCRIPT (NORMAN, Okla.)
NORMAN, Okla. — Saying he had no “spiritual or scholarly need” for it, Norman state Rep. Scott Martin confirmed Tuesday that he refused a copy of the Quran, the Muslim world’s holy book.
On Monday, a “Centennial” copy of the Quran was offered to all members of the Oklahoma Legislature from the Governor’s Ethnic American Advisory Council. And while many lawmakers accepted the book, at least eight legislators refused the gift, citing religious reasons.
Martin, a Republican, joined at least five other state representatives and two state senators — David Derby of Owasso, Guy Liebmann of Oklahoma City, Mark McCullough of Sapulpa, Mike Reynolds of Oklahoma City, Susan Winchester of Chickasha, Rex Duncan of Sand Springs and Senators Randy Brogdon of Owasso and David Myers of Ponca City — who refused to accept copies of the Quran.
“They (the Governor’s task force) sent us an e-mail, asking if we wanted a copy,” Martin said. “And since it wasn’t something that I needed, I kindly declined the offer.”
Martin said he turned down the book for religious reasons.
“I’m a Christian,” he said. “And there’s lots of other religious documents that I don’t have a copy of. But I appreciated them giving us more of a choice.”
State Rep. Rex Duncan, who announced his refusal publicly, said he turned down a copy of the Quran because it advocated killing women and children.
“Most Oklahomans do not endorse the idea of killing innocent women and children in the name of ideology,” he said in an interview with the Associated Press. Duncan said he objected “to the use of the state Centennial Seal and the state Seal all in an effort to further their (Muslims’) religion.”
However, one religious scholar said the action could be viewed as an insult to the Muslim community.
University of Oklahoma religious studies professor David Vishanoff, who specializes in Islamic studies, said lawmakers were making a “quick judgment” about the Islamic faith and probably haven’t read the book.
“I think they are making the mistake of identifying what they perceive as some Muslims’ belief as what’s in the Quran,” he said. “I don’t think they can find it advocating ‘killing innocent women and children.’”
The Quran, Vishanoff said, condemns infanticide, has a system of rules about the taking of life and urges restraint and forgiveness. And while some parts of the Quran are “hair raising,” Vishanoff said they are subject to interpretation. “It’s a Seventh Century Arabian book. You can say the same thing about the Bible … it’s all in there.”
By refusing the offer, Vishanoff said lawmakers were sending a negative message to the Muslim community.
“If I were in their shoes, I think I would get the message that we don’t really want Islam in our community,” Vishanoff said. “And that’s what they are trying to overcome.”
Oklahoma Muslims have “been making a real effort” to have a visible relationship with Oklahoma’s business and community leaders, he said. “They are an integral and respected part of the Oklahoma community. They are voters and supporters. And they matter.”
But while a few lawmakers passed on their copy of the Quran, at least one Cleveland County lawmaker said he accepted his copy.
Norman Democrat Bill Nations said he, too, was offered a copy of the Quran and he accepted it.
“I did receive a copy,” Nations said. “I fact I already had one.”
Nations said he wasn’t offended by the book, adding that he owned a copy of the Book of Mormon and “about 20” Bibles.
“It’s a matter of an intellectual exercise,” he said. “And understanding what’s going on the world. All Muslims are not our enemies, just some radical ones, which are the problems.”
While he said he had not received the e-mail about the Quran, state Rep. Wallace Collins, D-Norman, said he would accept a copy if offered. “I didn’t see an e-mail about it, but I would accept one if offered,” Collins said. “I have several friends who are Muslim.”
The controversy comes on the heels of a recent Ramadan dinner hosted by Gov. Brad Henry at the governor’s mansion.
Henry’s spokesman, Paul Sund, said the governor had hosted the dinner for several years. “Like President Bush, he’s hosted a Ramandan dinner for many years.”
At this year’s dinner Henry was presented with a copy of the Quran, Sund said. “No, he didn’t refuse it,” he said. “He accepted it warmly.”
M. Scott Carter writes for the Norman (Okla.) Transcript.