Is there a holy war brewing in the Gate City?
The controversy over Senior Resident Superior Court Judge William Douglas Albright’s refusal to allow the witnesses to use the Quran when being sworn in for Guilford County court proceedings has caught the attention of the Iranian news media, while the hullabaloo has fed domestic religious tensions in the United States.
The Tehran-based Iranian Quran News Agency mentioned efforts by the Council on American-Iranian Relations to persuade North Carolina judges to allow witnesses to swear on the Quran in a June 23 story under the headline, ‘“Growing Anti-Muslim Sentiments in US,’” that also references recent incidents in which torn, burned or otherwise desecrated editions of the Muslim sacred text have been found outside a housing project in Nashville that is home to many Muslims and outside a mosque in Virginia.
In a public statement on June 21, the Council’s legal director, Arsalan Iftikhar, suggested that Albright’s decision might compromise the wall between church and state by inappropriately endorsing one particular religion, namely Christianity, since many witnesses swear on the Bible before giving testimony. Witnesses are also allowed to swear an oath without the Bible by raising their right hand.
‘“Eliminating the opportunity to swear an oath on one’s own holy text may also have the effect of diminishing the credibility of the person’s testimony,’” Iftikhar added.
Two days later, a Florida organization identified as Americans Against Hate released a press release condemning the Council’s ‘Explore the Quran’ program, which seeks to educate judges and other Americans about the significance of the Muslim holy book, as making use of ‘“anti-Jewish’” commentaries.
‘“To attempt to coerce American judges to administer oaths using a book that the Los Angeles school system has deemed ‘anti-Semitic’ is a severe travesty,’” Americans Against Hate Chairman Joe Kaufman said in written statement. ‘“This is no different than the Ku Klux Klan trying to tell judges to swear in people using Hitler’s ‘Mein Kampf.’ We call on all judges and judicial personnel to reject the offer of this Quran or any propaganda materials from CAIR.’”