Lynn Torgerson vs Keith Ellison: A Congressional Campaign Based on Religious Hatred
by Sheila Musaji
Lynn Torgerson who is running against Keith Ellison for a Minnesota Congressional seat has an article posted on her campaign site entitled “Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Religion” and in this statement of her position she says some alarming things. In this article she throws out so many anti-Islam statements, misrepresentations of the Qur’an, anecdotes about the behavior of some Muslims that she says she has noticed on the street that it would take many articles to respond to each. Her campaign seems to be based on fear of Muslims and Islam, and this sort of vicious rhetoric is becoming more and more alarming.
She joins Daniel Pipes in smearing Rep. Ellison for no reason other than his religion. And, she joins Islamophobes who objected to Rep. Ellison’s being sworn in on a Qur’an after he was elected to office, for example: Rep. Virgil H. Goode, Jr. who said: “The Muslim Representative from Minnesota was elected by the voters of that district and if American citizens don’t wake up and adopt the Virgil Goode position on immigration there will likely be many more Muslims elected to office and demanding the use of the Koran.”; and, Dennis Prager who said: “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.”
As Rabbi Dr. Barry Leff pointed out at that time: “There are Presidents who did not take an oath on the Bible, and there are Jews who have taken the oath on the Torah, as reported by Minnesota Monitor: In our country’s history, four presidents have been inaugurated without swearing an oath on the Bible. Franklin Pierce was affirmed, and swore no oath, Rutherford Hayes initially had a private ceremony with no Bible before his public ceremony, Theodore Roosevelt had no Bible at his ceremony, and Lyndon Johnson used a missal during his first term. Despite Prager’s insistence that “for all of American history, Jews elected to public office have taken their oath on the Bible, even though they do not believe in the New Testament,” it is clear that he is wrong. Linda Lingle, Governor of Hawaii, took the oath of office on a Torah in 2001. Madeleine Kunin, a Jewish Immigrant and Governor of Vermont rested her left hand on a stack of old prayer books that had belonged to her mother, grandparents, and great grandfather” as “a physical expression of the weight of Jewish history. ... In fact, not only would I “allow” Mr. Ellison to take his oath on the Koran, I would insist on it. If he were to take his oath on a Christian Bible, I might be afraid he wasn’t sincere, it wasn’t really an oath. But if he were to swear by the Koran—well then I would know that it was a real oath to him. ”
As I said in an article responding to Pipes’ claims (but which applies equally to Torgerson, Goode, Prager, and all the other Islamophobes) “This is Islamophobia 3.0 and it is reprehensible. Ali Eteraz has the only answer we need to give to this sort of hateful, and ridiculous propaganda - Muslims should raise the other finger. It is the only reasonable response.” The only reasonable response, but in our current unreasonable time, there is a need to respond to at least part of her “argument” against Islam only because there are so many who are not religiously literate.
Here are some quotes from Torgerson’s site:
”... The Quran actually teaches Muslims to kill people not of their faith, which includes Christians and Jews, which are labeled infidels. (“Slay the idolaters wherever you find them, and take them captives and besiege them and lie in wait for them in every ambush.: (Sura 9:5)). This is advocating criminal behavior. Thus, at a minimum, this portion of the religion of Islam cannot be protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. It is not “religion” recognizable under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. ... People say that we can’t include the moderate, peace loving Muslims. Well, I agree. But, who are they? They need to stand up and identify themselves loudly and clearly say that they oppose Jihad and terrorism, etc. Who are these people? I cannot tell. It is not for me to go and try and find them. Rather, it is their duty to stand up and identify themselves, if there are any. ... And who does all of this bring us to? Keith Ellison. Who is Keith Ellison? He is my opposing candidate for the Fifth Congressional District seat. Keith Ellison is a Muslim, a person who was raised Christian and converted to Islam. ... Now, with all due respect, America, and its people, should be lauded for its goal of promoting to public office and other high ranks, people of color, African Americans, women, minorities, etc. However, quite frankly, in our zeal, we simply went too far with Keith Ellison. Keith Ellison simply is not a proper person to have in our federal government. I think it is interesting that Keith Ellison, in the past year or so, introduced a bill entitled “Global Peace.” “Global.” I think that word is telling. Globalization of Islam. It is also my understanding that when people of the Muslim faith use the word peace, that “peace” to them means the elimination of Christians and Jews. Yassar Arafat, a known terrorist who began the PLO (the Palestinian Labor Organization), also often called for “peace.” Also, it should be pointed out that during a recent vote regarding funding to support the needs of our troops, Keith Ellison voted against the bill. He later has voted to fund many other things, but, again, he voted against funding for the needs of our troops at war. So, we have Keith Ellison with ties both to Islam and to CAIR. We have him also voting against funding the needs of our military. Keith Ellison has no business in our federal government.”
Much of what Torgerson writes is laughable. She thinks the PLO is the Palestinian Labor Organization, and CAIR is the Council on Arab Islamic Relations, that “Umrah” reflects the goal of Islam to Islamize the entire world. Her statement goes on and on showing her ignorance about anything related to Islam, and yet she has very definite opinions about Islam and Muslims.
Torgerson quotes sources such as Dave Gaubatz’ “Muslim Mafia” book for what she knows about Islam, and she is relying on “what everyone knows” about Islam and Muslims. Of course, everyone knows that most terrorists are Muslims, and there are no Christian and no Jewish terrorists (or terrorists of any other religious stripe). Everyone also knows that Muslims are not equivalent to real Americans, that they are the enemy within, that they are not loyal, that Muslims don’t condemn religious extremists and don’t condemn violence and terrorism, that good Muslims can’t be good Americans, that they are all militant, that Islam is “of the devil”, and an “evil encroaching on the United States”, and this is a Christian nation and Muslims have not been part of its heritage, which everyone knows the Muslims are trying to take over, starting with getting an Eid stamp which is the first step towards shariah law. Everyone knows that Muslims will not defend the Constitution, and are given a pass by the elite media. It’s “us versus them”. And, everyone knows that even those who do seem moderate, or who speak out against violence can’t be trusted because they are liars. The problem is that what “everyone knows” is wrong.
“Another verse which has caused much confusion is 9:5. This is the first Quranic verse mentioned in the fatwa of Usama bin Ladin. It is also a verse which has been referred to by Reverend Franklin Graham in his comments about the “wicked, violent” nature of Islam. Verse 9:5 says,
But when the forbidden months are past, then fight and slay the polytheists (mushrikun) wherever you find them, seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every strategem [of war].
Contrary to what may be thought from a literal reading of this translation, this verse is not a kind of carte blanche to attack any and all non-Muslim peoples. Here again the issue of historical context is so crucial for understanding.
Verse 9:5 was revealed specifically in relation to the Muslims fighting the idolaters of Makkah. The Makkan idolaters are referred to in the Quran by the technical term “mushrikun” (sing. “mushrik”). This term comes from a three letter Arabic root “sh-r-k” which means “to associate” or “take a partner unto something,” so that the word mushrikun literally means, “those who take a partner [unto God],” that is to say, “polytheists” or “idolaters.” It should be noted, therefore, that the injunction in this verse to fight against the “polytheists” does not pertain to either Jews or Christians from the point of view of Islamic Law. Interestingly, Jews and Christians are never referred to within the Quran by the term mushrikun. They have, in fact, a very different “status” or “title” according to the Quran which, when not addressing them as individual communities, often refers to the two groups together by the technical term, ahl al-kitab or “People of the Book,” meaning people who have been given a book or scripture by God other than the Muslims. Given these facts, it is interesting that this verse should be cited by Bin Ladin in the context of a declaration calling on Muslims to fight Jews and Christians, particularly since this verse says nothing about Jews, Christians or the People of the Book in general. This being the case, the fatwa’s use of 9:5 represents a misappropriation of this verse to an end other than the one intended from its established historical context of fighting the “polytheist” Arabs, who were neither Christians nor Jews.
Given this context, this verse does not, in fact, show Islam to be a “wicked, violent” religion, as Franklin Graham would like us to believe, but shows that Islam gave to Muslims the right to defend themselves against those who would not let them worship God, a right, incidentally, which is protected by the United States Constitution.
We hope that this short analysis may help to demonstrate that the practice today of quoting Quranic verses as justification for sweeping generalizations about the Islamic faith is actually a far more complex matter than may be immediately apparent and requires a deep knowledge of both Quranic commentary and Islamic history. The very least that can be said is that it is a matter more complex than the rhetoric of extremists on all sides of this issue. We pray that this discussion may be something of an opening for greater understanding between all people of faith, people for whom the truth, and not rhetoric, must be paramount, precisely because in all religious traditions truth belongs to God.”
Why Islam published a commentary on this verse which includes the following:
“This verse, often called “the verse of the sword”, has been misquoted in a manner similar to the previous verses. First, we shall provide the verse in its context:
9:5-6 But when the forbidden months are past, then fight and slay the Pagans wherever ye find them, an seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem (of war); but if they repent, and establish regular prayers and practise regular charity, then open the way for them: for Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful. If one amongst the Pagans ask thee for asylum, grant it to him, so that he may hear the word of Allah. and then escort him to where he can be secure. That is because they are men without knowledge.
Having presented the verse in context, we can analyze it properly. Dr. Maher Hathout gives an explanation on the historical context of the verse:
This verse was revealed towards the end of the revelation period and relates to a limited context. Hostilities were frozen for a three-month period during which the Arabs pledged not to wage war. Prophet Muhammad was inspired to use this period to encourage the combatants to join the Muslim ranks or, if they chose, to leave the area that was under Muslims rule; however, if they were to resume hostilities, then the Muslims would fight back until victorious. One is inspired to note that even in this context of war, the verse concludes by emphasizing the divine attributes of mercy and forgiveness. To minimize hostilities, the Qur’an ordered Muslims to grant asylum to anyone, even an enemy, who sought refuge. Asylum would be granted according to the customs of chivalry; the person would be told the message of the Qur’an but not coerced into accepting that message. Thereafter, he or she would be escorted to safety regardless of his or her religion. (9:6). (Hathout, Jihad vs. Terrorism; US Multimedia Vera International, 2002, pp.52-53, emphasis added)
Therefore, this verse once again refers to those pagans who would continue to fight after the period of peace. It clearly commands the Muslims to protect those who seek peace and are non-combatants. It is a specific verse with a specific ruling and can in no way be applied to general situations. The command of the verse was only to be applied in the event of a battle. As Abdullah Yusuf Ali writes:
The emphasis is on the first clause: it is only when the four months of grace are past, and the other party show no sign of desisting from their treacherous design by right conduct, that the state of war supervenes - between Faith and Unfaith. (Yusuf Ali, The Holy Qur’an, Text, Translation and Commentary, emphasis added)”
I myself have written frequently about the use and abuse of scriptures and Torgerson is definitely abusing the Qur’an. She is also abusing rational thinking. Perhaps she should read verses of the Qur’an which oppose extremism.
Keith Ellison’s campaign for re-election to Congress from the State of Minnesota is once again faced with Islamophobia.
Lynn Torgerson is running against Keith Ellison and in fact this is the statement that she posted on a Tea Party Nation website [blockquote I, Lynne Torgerson, am running for Congress in Minnesota, against radical Islamist Keith Ellison. Keith Ellison fails to oppose banning Islamic Sharia law in the United States. He accuses people of trying to ban it as “conspiratorilists.” [sic] Keith Ellison also fails to support that the United States Constitution should be supreme over Islamic Sharia law.
Torgerson appeared on MSNBC in an interview by Al Sharpton. When Sharpton asked her what evidence she has that Congressman Ellison is not committed to the Constitution, Torgerson claimed that when she asked Ellison directly at a public meeting he refused to answer the question. As the Minnesota Independent notes
She says Ellison “refused” to answer the question, but Sharpton noted that in a clip played on the show and credited to Torgerson’s campaign that Ellison did answer it.
“I believe that the United States Constitution, which has been amended well over 25 times, is the bedrock of American law,” Ellison said in the clip. “This whole movement to ban Shariah — bills like this have been introduced in 22 states — in my view is a very thinly disguised effort at religious persecution of people that are Muslim.”
To that, Torgerson said, “Actually, what he said is the U.S. Constitution is the bedrock of American law. That does not answer the question of what should be supreme currently… Mr. Ellison actually evaded the question.”
Ellison’s office sent a statement to The Ed Show underscoring his stance and taking Torgerson to task for her “extreme” and “intolerant” rhetoric:
I took an oath to uphold the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees freedom of religion for all Americans. Religious acceptance is a deeply rooted American value, and regardless of political persuasion, it’s a value we must protect.
It’s too bad that someone can obtain so much attention based on their intolerant rhetoric, especially when unemployment is above 9 percent. On the other hand, the nation will be able to see how extreme the rhetoric has become. I call on all Americans to reject religious intolerance and embrace our constitution which upholds the promise of liberty and justice for all people.
That she asks this question at all shows her lack of understanding of the Constitution and of the Congress.
Article 6 of the Constitution states The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.
The current oath of office for Congress and the Senate is the following I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.
When Keith Ellison was elected to Congress there was a big fuss about his use of the Qur’an in a photo op following the swearing in, and Torgerson and lots of others showed their ignorance at that time also.
It is remarkable that they were unaware of the fact that the public swearing-in ceremony consists of Representatives raising their right hands and repeating the oath of office. This ceremony is led by the Speaker of the House, and no religious texts are used. Some members of Congress later hold separate private ceremonies for photo ops.
Torgerson is just as ignorant of the Constitution as Herman Cain who is running for President of the United States.