Keith Ellison’s Inspiring Address at APPNA Moot
By M. Shahid Yousuf
Congressman Keith Ellison
Congressman Keith Ellison (MN) delivered an upbeat address on June 28th, 2008 at the just concluded 31st Annual Meeting of the Association of Physicians of Pakistani Descent North America (APPNA). The meeting was attended by the largest number of its members to date. The banquet which marks the high point of the proceedings was attended by over 2000 dinner guests. An adjacent Omni Hotel had to be used to accommodate attendees who could not find room at the Wardman Park Hotel.
Rep. Ellison stressed the need to participate fully in all aspects of American life and stand up for the principles on which the US was founded. “We all want to go to the airport and not be hassled just because of our last name or religion. Rather we all want these things. We all just want to live. We want our seniors to be able to live out their lives in dignity. We want our children to have quality education. We want to be able to be who we are, worship our God as we understand divine, that is all we want. And we want to pray at the airport, leave us alone. Anybody can pray at the airport if they want to. That is all we want. In America we can help our whole country by being a body of Americans, Muslim Americans who have the sense of the common good for all, who remember that the first amendment to the United States Constitution establishes no government-sponsored religion, meaning that anyone can seek the divine as they are inspired to do so.
“There is no religious test for holding elected office. It specifically says no test.” He then informed that fear mongers were raising all kinds of issues on the talk radio circuit and elsewhere on the Internet writing furiously about “how it was going to bring down the body politic.” “They were all talking about how I was going to shake the foundations of the capitol.Well you know what, I swore on the Qur’an and the sky stood up there where it was before. Everything is fine.”
He said that the great power of our country is that all religions, all cultures, all faiths are welcome in America under the law, equal under the law. “That is the great power of our country.”
He encouraged the audience to be active in raising issues of concern to them. “We need to remind the country that racial profiling and religious profiling is wrong. What you are not wearing is not probable cause. Your religion is not probable cause. Your ethnic background is not probable cause. Leave people alone. We need your help to join together to call our country to say that everybody can use the highway, the byways, the airways without molestation and harassment.” He lamented the fact that witnesses are hard to come by as witness to give accounts to various government committees. He wanted members to organize Muslim Day on the Hill in all States all over the country. “We need to talk to the legislators.” He urged the audience not to be deterred by their accent in speech. He said that Arnold Swartznegger had an accent. “If he can run you can run.”
Rep. Ellison talked of the need for Pakistani Americans to become actively involved in the political process so as to fully benefit from the fruits of political activism. “You cannot do it from the sidelines. You can only do it if you are involved.”
“If you want America to have a policy vis-a-vis Pakistan that focuses on human capital, developing a relationship not based on guns and bombs but based on mutual understanding, developing literacy, women’s rights, food, medicines, housing, if you want to see a relationship like that, it would not develop unless you get involved and make it be that way.
“If you want to see an end to profiling you have to get involved.”
He praised the Pakistani-American physicians who are a part of the movement to build Muslim clinics in the poorest parts of America. He referred to the Muslim Clinic in Los Angles in an area where the Rodney King riots “blasted” the neighborhood. He talked about the difficulty of the local population there as the Martin Luther King Hospital there had closed their doors and the patients were experiencing hardships. He said there should be more of such clinics. He said that just because you are not a doctor do not think that you cannot participate because these clinics need fundraisers, secretaries and organizers. He said other members of the community should not sit on the sidelines but get involved.
He said it was very American to remember the homeland of one’s origin and urged the assembly to never give up the love for Pakistan. “It is very American for you to care about Pakistan.”