News / USA

Congressman: Misunderstanding of Islam Continues in the US

Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., one of only two Muslim's in Congress, testifies before the House Homeland Security Committee on the extent of the radicalization of American Muslims, on Capitol Hill in Washington (File Photo - March 10, 2011)
Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., one of only two Muslim's in Congress, testifies before the House Homeland Security Committee on the extent of the radicalization of American Muslims, on Capitol Hill in Washington (File Photo - March 10, 2011)
Karlina Amkas

Most Muslims around the world will start the fasting month of Ramadan on Monday, August 1. In America, Muslims have been conducting a series of events to welcome the holy month of Ramadan. But, according to a U.S. Congressman, Islam still is mostly misunderstood in the United States. 

Keith Ellison, a member of the House of Representatives from the midwestern state of Minnesota delivered greetings on the fasting month.

Islam is still much misunderstood

Ellison took office in January, 2007, and became the first Muslim to be elected to the U.S. Congress.  He was first elected in November of 2006, just five years after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.  He has won re-election twice since then.

Keith Ellison is one of the many faces of Muslims in America. As a pioneer in his profession, many people ask how his fellow members of Congress on Capitol Hill treat him. In a recent panel discussion “Muslims in America” held by the Faith and Politics Institute at the Newseum in Washington, Ellison answered that question:

"I want to assure you that I have been well treated, well received. Well respected by my colleagues," he said.

Islam, Ellison acknowledged, is still much misunderstood. But, he asserts, Islam in America is not something new.  Islam has been in America for 14 generations. He regrets though, that throughout the world, people treated religion as their identity and are willing to kill or die over the identity associated with religion, not the faith, but religious identity.

"If you use your religion as an identity as opposed to a path to divine, inspirations and guidance, then you are no different than Crips and Bloods [gangs]," he said. "And I want to say that I mean that."

Make this world a better place

A Palestinian souvenir shop owner displays decoration lights of Ramadan at his shop in the West Bank city of Ramallah, July 31, 2011
A Palestinian souvenir shop owner displays decoration lights of Ramadan at his shop in the West Bank city of Ramallah, July 31, 2011

Surveys show that about 60 percent of Americans do not understand Islam. To further introduce Islam, Ellison argued, the Muslim community in America should be much more vocal about who they really are, then take actions in their chosen field.

"If you can make a movie, make one. If you could sing a song, sing it. If you could write a play, write it. If you want to run for office - run, but do something to make this world a better place" said Ellison. "And then we don’t even have to worry about what religion we are because we [will] all be united in what we believe, which is service to humanity."

His argument is echoed by Wajahat Ali, a man of Pakistani descent, a playwright and theater director, who was born and raised near the city of San Francisco in the western state of California. His works, in particular, The Domestic Crusaders,  gained lots of attention.

Remake of history

What is happening to Muslims in America nowadays, according to Wajahat Ali, is a “remake of history with new characters." Looking back, he recalls, Jews, Blacks, Americans of Japanese and Italian descent have had similar experiences. He believes homosexuals are under the same type of scrutiny now.

Meanwhile, Hussein Rashid, a lecturer and a Muslim activist in New York, regrets that not many Muslim leaders have emerged lately.  He believes it is because Muslims are not good at telling their stories.

Muslims are not good at telling their stories

Rashid also regrets that many Muslims try to fit in their environment because they do not want to appear as a Muslim. In fact, he said, it is okay to be different, and that Muslims have many similarities with people of other religions in America. So, he adds, Muslims or non-Muslims, we are all Americans, and we need to promote equality and respect for diversity.

Another panelist was an independent filmmaker who has spent years working for Hollywood movie industries, Lena Khan. Through her short movie A Land Called Paradise she states that Muslims in America are just like other Americans. She says we also shop at Victoria's Secret, are fans of Justin Timberlake, and fall in love.

But, she states, it is our choice to be away from alcoholic beverages that cause one death every 31 minutes,  not to commit adultery, and, for Muslim women, to wear hijab.

Ellison, Khan, Ali and Rashid all urge Muslims to do something in their respective fields to make a better world. In addition, Keith Ellison calls on Muslims to serve the community. Wajahat Ali asks Muslims to do something for all so that we can learn from each other. Meanwhile, Hussein Rashid calls on Muslims to raise their "voice" and deliver a story that can be shared.

It was the first panel discussion of its kind held at the Newseum and it was just days before Muslims start their Ramadan.

The Fiqh Council of North America sets Ramadan to begin on Monday, August 1. The fasting month comes when the Americans are debating the debt ceiling, the Middle East regions are still in turbulence, and Muslims in Somalia are suffering from a severe famine due to drought.

Still Keith Ellison says, no matter what is happening in the world he wants to express his wish for a blessed Ramadan for all Muslims anywhere in the world.

You May Like

Russia Names US NGO 'Undesirable'

Prosecutors determine activities of National Endowment for Democracy to be 'undesirable,' paving the way for it to be outlawed on Russian territory More

Erdogan Vows 'Anti-Terror' Campaign in Syria, Iraq

Erdogan expressed confidence the 'necessary steps' will be taken by NATO leaders, who will meet Tuesday at Turkey's request More

North Korea: 'No Interest at All' in Nuke Deal

Senior US envoy Sydney Seiler visits Beijing Tuesday for talks on how to revive the stalled six-party nuclear talks with North Korea More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Wini
X
July 28, 2015 12:21 AM
The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Iran Nuclear Pact Wins Few New US Congressional Backers

Later this week, President Barack Obama returns from a trip to Africa to confront a U.S. Congress roiled by the nuclear accord with Iran, an agreement that has received the blessing of the U.N. Security Council. Days of intensive lobbying and testimony by top administration officials have won few new congressional supporters of the pact. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Obama Encourages Kenya to Fix Cultures of Corruption, Discrimination

President Barack Obama bid farewell to Kenya Sunday with a major speech at as stadium outside the capital Nairobi where he called on Kenyans to change the cultures of corruption and discrimination that can hold society back. VOA East Africa Correspondent Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video California Towns Welcome Special Olympics Athletes

Cities and towns in Southern California are greeting thousands of athletes who are arriving for Special Olympics, a competition for people with intellectual disabilities. The games will run from July 25th through August 2nd. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, where athletes from Namibia, Singapore and Tanzania got a rousing welcome from local residents.
Video

Video Critics of Japan Defense Policy Focus on Okinawa

In Okinawa, many locals have long complained that Tokyo places an unfair burden on the tiny island by locating most of Japan's U.S. military bases there. As Japan's government moves toward strengthening and expanding the country's defense policies, opponents of those plans are joining local protesters in Okinawa, voicing concern about where the country is headed. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Okinawa.
Video

Video IS Uses Chemical Weapons in Syrian Attack

Islamic State militants have added a new weapon in their arsenal of fear: chemical weapons. VOA Kurdish service reporter Zana Omer was on the scene within hours of a recent attack in Hasakah, Syria, and has details of the subsequent investigation, in this report narrated by Miguel Amaya.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.
Video

Video Hoverbike Flying Toward Reality

Another long-standing dream of many technological inventors is quickly approaching reality: U.S.- and British-based firms are cooperating in the development of an individual flying platform they call a hoverbike. They say it may revolutionize the concept of flying, including in the U.S. military. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video As Japan Expands Defense Role, Protests Follow

The Japanese government is moving forward with a controversial security bill that would authorize the military to fight abroad for the first time since World War II. Leaders say it is critical to defend against rising threats from China and North Korea. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Japan on the big changes ahead, and the opposition they are drawing.
Video

Video Replacing Poppies with Coffee in Myanmar

The remote mountains of Myanmar’s Shan state are home to the second-largest opium-producing region in the world. After a drop during the 2000s, production surged in the past eight years to feed an increasing demand for heroin in China. But farmers are now making less on the crop, and the U.N. is hoping many will make the switch to growing coffee. Daniel de Carteret reports for VOA from Taunggyi.

VOA Blogs