- The Washington Times - Monday, December 4, 2006

ASSOCIATED PRESS

A Muslim pressure group wants a syndicated Jewish columnist removed from the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council for criticizing Rep.-elect Keith Ellison’s decision to use the Koran during his ceremonial swearing-in next month.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) said yesterday that comments by Dennis Prager displayed an intolerance toward Islam that makes it inappropriate for him to serve on the council, which oversees the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington.

President Bush appointed Mr. Prager in August to fill the remainder of a five-year term, which expires in January 2011.

In his column last week, Mr. Prager wrote: “Insofar as a member of Congress taking an oath to serve America and uphold its values is concerned, America is interested in only one book, the Bible. If you are incapable of taking an oath on that book, don’t serve in Congress.”

Nihad Awad, CAIR’s executive director, sent a letter to the council’s chairman, Fred Zeidman, saying, “No one who holds such bigoted, intolerant and divisive views should be in a policy-making position at a taxpayer-funded institution that seeks to educate Americans about the destructive impact hatred has had, and continues to have, on every society.”

Messages left yesterday for Mr. Zeidman were not returned.

Mr. Prager, in a telephone interview yesterday, offered what he called “a solution to this that would satisfy me and the vast majority of Americans” — Mr. Ellison bringing a Bible with him along with his Koran.

“The issue has never been one of religious freedom or attitudes toward Islam,” Mr. Prager said. “The issue has been from the outset honoring the most important text of American history.”

Mr. Ellison, Minnesota Democrat, is the first Muslim elected to Congress. He won an open seat race to replace longtime Rep. Martin Olav Sabo, a Democrat who is retiring. Mr. Ellison did not return phone messages yesterday, but a CAIR spokesman, Ibrahim Hooper, mocked Mr. Prager’s suggestion.

“It’s obviously up to Mr. Ellison to decide, but I don’t think that forcing him to swear an oath on a book not of his faith is the answer,” Mr. Hooper said.

By tradition, all members of the House are sworn in together on the House floor. It’s in the photo-op ceremony that a Bible is used — or in Mr. Ellison’s case, the Koran.

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