Barbara Ferguson, Arab News
WASHINGTON, 23 September 2007 — Rep. Keith Ellison, the first US Muslim Congressman, reacted strongly to this week’s statement by his Republican counterpart, Rep. Peter King (R-NY), who said in an interview last week that there are “too many” mosques in the United States and urged a more aggressive law enforcement approach toward them...
Ellison was attending an Iftar held at the Council on American Islamic Relations on Thursday in honor of Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, secretary general of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, who was in Washington meeting with lawmakers in Congress before traveling to New York where he will speak at the United Nations.
“Rep. King’s remarks that there “are too many mosques in the US” cuts into the basis of the US Constitution, which guarantees all Americans freedom of their religion,” Ellison told Arab News...
In the US, you can practice any religion you want. This is guaranteed by both the Constitution and the 1st Amendment,” said Ellison, 44, following prayers and Iftar at CAIR’s Washington headquarters.
“While we have some people in Congress who make offensive comments, it is important for us, as Muslims, to lift the level of debate, and demonstrate the true character of Islam,” said Ellison.
“The comment by Rep. King was surely heard throughout the Muslim world, and I think it undermines our national security because it gives people who are really hostile to the US — terrorists and murders — recruiting tools.”
Ellison, who converted from Catholicism to Sunni Islam at age nineteen, while attending university, said: “There is nothing about Islam that should be associated with terrorism, and nothing about terrorism that should be association with Islam.
“The US has the right to defend itself, but not to insult Muslims. This statement by Rep. King is insulting to all Muslims, and also to all people who believe in religious pluralism, the Jeffersonian tradition and those that support tolerance.”
Asked if people were tolerant to him, the first Muslim congressman, Ellison said: “People here have been overwhelmingly tolerant of me.”
Then returning to King, he said: “Please tell your readers that Rep. King represents a very small minority view, but — because his comments were so inflammatory — they get a lot of attention.
“Just as we [Muslims] don’t want to be judged by the actions of a small [extremist] minority, I ask the Muslim world not to judge Congress by the remarks of one congressman.”...
- Hussam Ayloush
- Hussam has been a lifelong human rights activist who is passionate about promoting democratic societies, in the US and worldwide, in which all people, including immigrants, workers, minorities, and the poor enjoy freedom, justice, economic justice, respect, and equality. Mr. Ayloush frequently lectures on Islam, media relations, civil rights, hate crimes and international affairs. He has consistently appeared in local, national, and international media. Full biography at: http://hussamayloush.blogspot.com/2006/08/biography-of-hussam-ayloush.html