Politics, World, Life, archive

Being Muslim in US Congress

Congressman Ellison answered the Anadolu Agency's questions on the American Muslim experience, the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan, and current events in the Muslim world.

28.07.2013
Being Muslim in US Congress

WASHINGTON

Muslims are "supposed to be working to put love into the world", said Keith Ellison, a member of the United States House of Representatives.

Aged 50, Ellison has represented Minnesota since 2002. He is the first Muslim to be elected to the US Congress.

Ellison said the American Muslim experience was "like one elevator going up, one elevator going down.”

"There is a circumstance that America is having trouble accepting people who are Muslim.

"But here's the reality: I've been on the ballot for US Congress for four times. I've never lost in election.

"People know I'm Muslim. My opponents make sure they know. Because they try to whip up anti-Muslim hate. And these people vote for me, what does that mean? America is not a Muslim hating country."

The congressman said prejudice against Muslims also existed in the US parliament.

"There was a member of Congress who recently said the American Muslims never denounced terrorism. I went to him as a brother, as a fellow congressman, and I said, 'Hey man, I think you are mistaken about this,’ and I shared with him information about all the Muslim groups who denounced terrorism. He said ‘I didn’t know,' I said ‘it's ok.'

"I told him I was a Muslim, my children are Muslim. I told him I have a son who is in the US Army. I told him: 'Look, he's a patriotic American and he is a sincere Muslim. So what are you going to do with that?'"

- Anti-Muslim attitude "getting better"

Ellison said he himself faced a lot of prejudice as a Muslim, but not within his family.

"My mother is Catholic, she still is. Religion never separated us. My brother is a Baptist, Protestant minister of Christianity. Religion was never a problem and when I was the target of anti-Muslim hatred, they all would step up and stand with me."

Ellison expressed hope that the American society could eliminate Islamophobia.

"We’ve overcome ugly things. There used to be signs that said 'whites only can sit here', 'blacks only can drink water there' and we as Americans came together and stopped it.

"I believe we will get through this anti-Muslim thing. In fact, I feel it's getting a little better now, still problematic but it's still getting a little better."

Ellison said Ramadan was a good time to foster understanding and dialogue between faiths.

"The extremists of any religion don't want to talk, they want to polarize and drive people apart. What we've got to do as people of good will of all faiths is to find a way to unite, and so I think we've got to do much more of it, we've got to invite; this is Ramadan, we should invite Christians to the masjid, we should invite Jews to the masjid."

More Muslims active in the US government and society would help mitigate ill feelings towards the Muslim community, Ellison believes.

"I do feel a certain responsibility to help American Muslims engage their government. I tell American Muslims, 'You've got to run for office, you've got to volunteer, you've got to make this country better.'"

- Violence in the Muslim World

Ellison describes the month of Ramadan as "a time of renewal, reflection and intensified prayer," which he looks forward to every year.

"I am fasting and reading Qur'an every night.

"I don't just read Qur'an; I read more documents on faith and meaning and purpose.

"[Ramadan] is an important family time. So we get together with friends that we haven't seen at iftar."

Asked on the continuing violence in the Muslim world despite the "month of peace," Ellison said he was "horrified" by the recent events.

"Nearly every surah [chapter] in the Qur'an begins with Bismillahirrahmanirrahim, 'in the name of God, the most Generous, the most Merciful'.

"So, if everything we do is supposed to be for the sake of Allah and everything in the Qur'an begins with His attributes of mercy and generosity, how then can we be cruel and unjust?", he said.

"When I was introduced to Islam at the age of 19, it was a Sunni tradition. But I have no animosity towards people who see the world a little different than me and I'm horrified by the killings of the Shia in Pakistan. I'm horrified by the mass murder of almost 93,000 people killed in Syria. I'm horrified by the injustice in Iran and in other places.

"My main message is that we are supposed to be working to put love into the world," Ellison said.

The United Nations has recently updated its figures on the death toll in Syria, which it says has exceeded 100,000.

Ellison praised Turkey's support for Syrians who fled the civil war. "Ramadan is a time to understand that we all have duty to the poor. In Syria, people are starving there because of war. Thanks to the Turkish people who are helping them. This is a wonderful thing."

Anadolu Agency website contains only a portion of the news stories offered to subscribers in the AA News Broadcasting System (HAS), and in summarized form. Please contact us for subscription options.
Related topics
Bu haberi paylaşın