First Muslim Elected To U.S Conngress
Arriving to a thunderous round of applause and cheers, Keith Ellison (D-MN) made his victory speech as America’s first Muslim elected to the U.S. Congress.
The newly elected Minnesota Congressman thanked his supporters, and pledged to work for a better and more prosperous America for all people.
He also gave personal thanks to Imam Mahdi Bray and the entire Muslim community for their unwavering support.
Bray, who took time off from his duties as the Executive Director of the Muslim American Society (MAS) Freedom Foundation, personally campaigned for Ellison along with civil rights activist Jesse Jackson and Air American Radio host Al Franken.
“Keith ran a positive and smart campaign,” stated Bray. “Despite the nasty attacks on him and his family, he stayed on the high road. He knew the issues and concerns of his district and addressed them.”
“His commitment to social and economic justice, combined with a well organized campaign staff, put him well over the top at the ballot box. Also, his opposition to the war and occupation in Iraq resonated with voters,” added Bray.
“Keith is a real consensus and coalition builder. His election is an historic event that is good for America.”
The Muslim American Society (MAS), its Freedom Foundation, and especially the MAS Minnesota Chapter, congratulate Keith Ellison on his historic victory.
MAS Freedom Foundation also congratulates and recognizes the outstanding work of the Minnesota Muslim community and the large Minnesota Somali population.
Congratulations are also in order for the many Muslims who went to Minnesota to participate in this historical event.
Keith Ellison will formally take his oath of office for the 110th United States Congress in January of 2007
US Gets First Muslim Congressman
MINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota — Democrat Keith Ellison has become the first American Muslim elected to Congress after having defeated his two contenders in Minneapolis and secured a seat in the 435-member House of representatives.
“As-salamu `alaykum. Tonight, we made history,” a proud Ellison told jubilant supporters celebrating his victory late Tuesday, November 7, reported Agence France-Presse (AFP).
Ellison, a two-term state legislator, defeated his two rivals in the Minnesota district of Minneapolis to succeed retiring Democrat Martin Sabo.
“We won a key election, but we did much more than that,” said the 43-year-old attorney who reverted to Islam at the age of 19 when he was a college student.
“We showed that a candidate can run a 100 percent positive campaign and prevail, even against tough opposition.”
Ellison, the first African American to be elected to the House in the whit-majority state, did not speak of his faith during the election campaign.
“We showed that we are stronger when we build bridges between communities rather than trying to divide and conquer,” he told celebrating supporters.
“We are working for an America where everybody counts, where everybody matters, and where peace is our guiding principle. We’ll do it together.”
Winner Ellison told his supporter the task ahead is enormous and would require a great deal of work.
“I feel like I’ve got a lot of work to do. I feel like I’ve got to pull people together and keep them together. We’re having fun tonight, but tomorrow, it’s on.”
Democrats have wrestled control of the House of Representatives from President George Bush’s Republicans for the first time since 1994 and seem to be on the brink of capturing the Senate as well.
Campaigning on a populist platform, Ellison called for an immediate withdrawal of US troops from Iraq.
He also called for greater reliance on renewable fuels and for a universal, government-paid health care system.
Known for his community services, Ellison worked to secure a $400,000 appropriation for homeless outreach.
A staunch defender of human and civil rights, the Muslim lawmaker authored and passed a repeal of vagrancy laws criminalizing homelessness.
He also fought for and helped pass the largest increase for public schools in two decades.
Ellison, however, caused controversy among Americans Muslims, who stood by him and donated generously for his campaign, by supporting gay rights and legal abortion.
He was strongly backed by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), America’s largest Islamic civil liberties group which has regional offices nationwide and in Canada.
Gay relationship and same-sex marriages are totally prohibited in Islam as well as in all the divine religions.
Islam also prohibits abortion except when the mother’s life is at stake.
The Muslim lawmaker won Tuesday’s election despite bitter campaigns by rivals marked by sharp personal attacks.
Republican rival Alan Fine fought a relentless campaign attacking Ellison’s past association with the controversial Nation of Islam group, seeking to use it as a sign of anti-Semitism.
But Ellison dismissed the accusations, insisting his involvement with Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan was limited to helping organize a 1995 march by black men in Washington.
The Muslim lawmaker was supported by the National Jewish Democratic Council as well as a prominent Minneapolis Jewish newspaper.
The Reverend Jesse Jackson, a former candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, also campaigned for Ellison.
Ellison’s election victory was a sign of the increasing Muslim weight in the US political scene.
His election has “huge symbolism”, said Larry Jacobs, a professor of political science at the University of Minnesota.
“The message goes out from the United States that Muslims can be included in the political process and welcomed in Congress — that America is not at war with Islam,” Jacobs said.
Ellison’s district in northeast Minneapolis was once dominated by Scandinavian and Russian immigrants. But is now home to growing numbers of Somali and Hispanic Americans.
There are between six to seven million Muslims in the United States, making up less than three percent of the country’s 300 million population.
Since the 9/11 attacks, American Muslims have become sensitized to an erosion of their civil rights, with a prevailing belief that America was targeting their faith.
“(Americans) treat us differently after Sept. 11. My own father was attacked,” said Ellison supporter Khadra Darsame, a 1995 immigrant from Somalia.
“Ellison said everybody matters equally and he told us what he would do … he will do the right thing.”