Patton, Rommel, Jefferson, and Ellison

Is the fact that Thomas Jefferson owned a copy of the Quran a case of “religious tolerance,” or “know thy enemy”? it’s looking more and more like the latter.

Last week, Muslim Congressman Keith Ellison (Hakim-Mohammad) of Minnesota was sworn into office. The swearing-in caused some controversy because Ellison had his hand placed on a Quran instead of a Bible — the Bible being the usual book-of-choice for politicians on their way to breaking most of the commandments contained therein.

Ellison’s hand was placed on a Quran that once belonged to Thomas Jefferson, which was a nice attempt to soften the P.R., but what’s the real story behind the significance of that particular book? The swearing-in was explained by Ellison’s camp this way:

Ellison spokesman Rick Jauert went further, saying the choice of Jefferson’s Quran was significant because it “dates religious tolerance back to the time of our founding fathers.”

“Jefferson was … one of the more profound thinkers of the time, who recognized even then that there was nothing to fear, and in fact there was strength in recognizing religious tolerance,” he said.

At first this sounded plausible enough, but then I remembered a scene from the movie “Patton.”

As George C. Scott’s character was looking on through a pair of binoculars as his forces pummeled Rommel’s army in a brilliantly conceived sneak attack, Patton exclaimed, “Rommel, you magnificent bastard, I read your book!”

Now it’s looking like this might have been the reason Jefferson was reading the Quran, and not necessarily because he was outwardly embracing overall religious tolerance.

From WorldNetDaily:

Ted Sampley, the publisher of U.S. Veteran Dispatch, agreed with Ellison, who used the Library of Congress Quran that Jefferson once owned for his ceremonial swearing-in to Congress, that Jefferson used the Quran for his own thinking, but not with the same result.

“There is no doubt Ellison was right about Jefferson believing wisdom could be ‘gleaned’ from the Muslim Quran,” Sampley writes. “At the time Jefferson owned the book, he needed to know everything possible about Muslims because he was about to advocate war against the Islamic ‘Barbary’ states of Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Tripoli.”

The rest of that story is here.

Christopher Hitchens has a good explanation as well.

Was Ellison sworn into office with his hand on the same book that belonged to a man who was an opponent of the material in the Quran, not to mention some of the people who worship the philosophy? 

After all, isn’t Jefferson the guy who had his problems with literal interpretations of the Holy Bible, hence the penning of “The Jefferson Bible“? Jefferson most certainly, even by the most optimistic liberal standards, didn’t embrace the Quran more than the Bible.

There’s a good chance that, given the events of the day, Jefferson kept and appreciated the Quran for the same reasons that Patton’s library proudly displayed Rommel’s “Infantry Attacks.” Who knows — Thomas Jefferson may have been having a hell of a chuckle as Ellison was sworn in.


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Author: Doug Powers

Doug Powers is a writer, editor and commentator covering news of the day from a conservative viewpoint with an occasional shot of irreverence and a chaser of snark. Townhall Media writer/editor. alum. Bowling novice. Long-suffering Detroit Lions fan. Contact: