Media Center: ‘Thomas Jefferson’s Qur’an’ by Denise Spellberg
WHO: Denise A. Spellberg
WHAT: THOMAS JEFFERSON’S QUR’AN:
Islam and the Founders
WHEN: Published by Knopf October 4, 2013
WHERE: Colonial America.
“Fresh and timely.
“The English translation of the Qur’an that Thomas Jefferson purchased in 1765 made its most public appearance in 2007, when Minnesota Congressman-elect Keith Ellison used it for a photo-op reenactment of his taking the oath of office. Jefferson’s Qur’an is, Spellberg shows in this fresh and timely account, important not because it directly influenced Jefferson’s thought…but because its presence in Jefferson’s library reminds us of his progressive positions on religious tolerance, and the extent to which the Founding Fathers’ ideas were shaped by their ideas about Muslims, even though most of the Founders had probably never actually met a Muslim.
“Spellberg illustrates her thesis in part by describing the slight but significant ways in which colonial Americans came into contact with Muslims, who were thought to reflect the outer limits of a diverse American population. She scours Jefferson’s writings and draws inferences from, among other things, where in his library Jefferson shelved his Qur’an. But Jefferson’s political and diplomatic dealings, which reveal a thoughtful if complicated approach to Islam, are perhaps more revealing.
“And we are reminded that, in a messy election campaign against John Adams, Jefferson may have been the first presidential candidate to be maliciously accused of being a Muslim.” —Brendan Driscoll, BOOKLIST
“Fascinating…the intriguing story of Thomas Jefferson and his reading of the holy book of Islam.” —KIRKUS REVIEWS
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