Quran owned by third US president Thomas Jefferson showcased at Dubai Expo 2020

Quran owned by third US president Thomas Jefferson showcased at Dubai Expo 2020
The Quran dates back to 1734 and has never left the US since it was owned by Thomas Jefferson in the colonial era, until now.
3 min read
11 October, 2021
It is believed the Quran displayed at the Dubai Expo 2020 was acquired by Thomas Jefferson as a young man studying law [source: Getty]

A rare translated copy of the Quran owned by third US president Thomas Jefferson is on display at the USA Pavilion in the Dubai Expo 2020

This is the first time the holy text has left the US since it arrived in colonial-era America and was acquired by the former president. 

The two-volume edition travelled under high security in a custom-made crate along with a sensor that detects vibrations and temperature changes to the World Fair in the UAE, which opened its doors at the start of the month. 

"Thomas Jefferson's copy of the Quran left the US for the first time from its home at the Library of Congress in Washington, DC," wrote the USA Expo 2020 account on Twitter. 

"It is on display in the USA Pavilion as an integral part of our theme," they said. 

It is understood that Jefferson, president from 1801 to 1809, received the copy while studying law as a young man. 

It is a two-volume second edition English translation by George Sale from 1734 and was printed in London.

A framed map of the holy city Mecca was brought along with the Quran from the US Library of Congress. 

The historic text has been dubbed one of the highlights of the Expo's USA Pavillon, which is named "Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of the Future", a riff on Jefferson's famous phrase from the Declaration of Independence. 

After years of planning and billions spend on its construction, the Dubai Expo 2020 will be open for 182 days with pavilions from over 190 countries across the world. 

The fair has been celebrated as a hub of ingenuity and culture, bringing people together to "build a better world and shape the future", according to the Expo website. 

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However, rights groups slammed the event as a distraction from the UAE's poor human rights record, including its involvement in the war in Yemen and numerous arbitrary arrests and allegations of torture at home. 

"[The UAE] are engaging in outrageous behaviour that subverts democracy," said Sunjeev Berry, from rights group Freedom Forward to The New Arab. 

He called the Expo a "propaganda device" and is urging countries, companies, and celebrities to "think twice" before visiting. 

Berry accused US President Joe Biden's government of being "silent" and "devoid of reality" over the UAE's human rights violations and their participation at the world fair. 

On the USA Pavillon website, the Expo was hailed as "a once in a generation opportunity to influence a vibrant region with a youthful population".