Keith Ellison May Become Congress’s First Muslim
By Aaron Blake

With a fast-growing US population estimated around 5 million, Muslims are increasing their voice in local and national politics every year. But thus far they haven’t had one of their own in a national position of power in Congress, the Cabinet or the Supreme Court.
He didn’t know it at the time, but Keith Ellison took a large step toward changing that earlier this month when he won the Democratic endorsement for the seat of retiring Rep. Martin Sabo (D-Minn.) in one of the safest Democratic districts in the country.
Ellison, a black Muslim, still faces a September primary challenge that could feature Sabo’s chief of staff, a former state Democratic party chairman. But he has already gotten closer than any other Muslim candidate in recent years and would be the first Muslim in Congress, according to several national Muslim groups. . .
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) is at the forefront of Muslim get-out-the-vote efforts nationwide. Spokesman Corey Saylor said CAIR put together substantial efforts in Ohio and Florida in 2004 and will broaden its scope in the upcoming midterms.
He said most of the progress in getting candidates elected has been on the local level but an Ellison victory would be a breakthrough.
“I think it would be huge, no questions asked ¬ particularly for a community that feels very much like its presence in the United States is being questioned,” Saylor said. “This would be a tremendous assertion of the fact that we’re Americans and we’re just as interested in public service as anyone else, and here’s the proof ¬ we have somebody in Congress.”
Saylor attributed the fact that there have been no Muslims in Congress to two things: The Muslim political movement in America is in its infancy, with the first groups having started less than two decades ago, and the lasting effects of Sept. 11 and the negative perceptions about Muslims that have resulted…
(Courtesy The Hill, 5-24-06


Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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