News / USA

Muslim American Congressman Calls for Tolerance

U.S. Congressman Keith Ellison
U.S. Congressman Keith Ellison

Multimedia

Audio
Cindy Saine

Keith Ellison became the first Muslim American to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2006. One issue he has promoted strongly while in office has been tolerance about religious differences. He is concerned by a slight spike in anti-Islamic sentiment in recent weeks. But he stressed that he believes the United States is still welcoming to Muslims and people of diverse backgrounds.

Keith Ellison's election to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2006 captured international attention. He was sworn in on the Quran owned by Thomas Jefferson, the author of the U.S. Declaration of Independence. The Democrat from Minnesota is one of two Muslim-Americans currently serving in Congress. He says his election proves that America is open to people of all faiths.

Concern over plans

But in recent weeks, Ellison has become concerned about the controversy over plans to build an Islamic center in New York, near the site of the September 11th, 2001, terrorist attacks. Critics say the mosque would be insensitive to the families of those killed in the attacks.

Congressman Ellison spoke at a candlelight vigil in support of the Islamic prayer center, saying the whole world is watching.

He also praised President Obama's comment that Muslims have a right to practice their religion, and build places of worship on private property – including Lower Manhattan.

"He [Obama] made a great statement saying that, look, you know, if you have other religious institutions around Ground Zero, if you have other businesses, if you have other activity going on, you can't say everybody is welcome except Muslims," Congressman Ellison said. "You know, that would set up a two-tier system and that is not what America is about."

Appalled by al-Awlaki statements

U.S. Congressman Keith Ellison
U.S. Congressman Keith Ellison

Ellison told VOA the actions of a few suspected terrorists are causing problems for the millions of American Muslims who contribute to U.S. society. He especially singled out Anwar al-Awlaki, the Muslim cleric alleged to have played a key role in several major attacks against the United States, including the foiled Christmas Day airliner bombing.

"Anwar-al-Awlaki, who is American-born, living in Yemen somewhere, has gone on the Internet and said that he wants American Muslims to harm our own country," said Congressman Ellison. "You know, I am appalled by what he said and did. He lived under the shelter and under the umbrella of the Constitution of this country, was free to worship as he saw fit, was free to express himself, was free to do anything he wanted, except violate the law."

Ellison's appeal

Ellison appealed to young Muslims worldwide to reject violence, and to not let themselves be provoked by hate-mongers of any religion.

On another recent issue – the tensions that arose last month when the pastor of a small Christian church in Florida threatened to burn Qurans then cancelled his plans – Ellison said promoting understanding between people of different religions is a top priority for him.

"I speak extensively about interfaith dialogue and I tell people, and one of the things after the threatened Quran burning, I said to people, look, you know, go meet some people of another faith, get together, break bread, talk, you know tell these folks in your church that they need to meet these Muslims, tell these people in your mosque they need to meet those Jews…," Congressman Ellison added.

Like all 435 House members, Ellison is up for re-election in November, and he says his chances for a third term look good. He says he plans to keep on promoting tolerance.

 

You May Like

At Khmer Rouge Court, Long-Awaited Verdict Approaches

First phase of trial, which is coming to an end, has focused on forced exodus of Phnom Penh in 1975 - and now many are hopeful justice will be served More

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities More

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

Downing of Malaysian airliner, allegations of cross-border shelling move information war in war-torn country to a new level 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.
Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
July 31, 2014 8:13 PM
The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict in Gaza, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities. Probably the most important destination is the local bakery. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Gaza City.
Video

Video US-Funded Program Offers Honduran Children Alternative to Illegal Immigration

President Obama and Central American leaders recently agreed to come up with a plan to address poverty and crime in the region that is fueling the surge of young migrants trying to illegally enter the United States. VOA’s Brian Padden looks at one such program in Honduras - funded in part by the United States - which gives street kids not only food and safety but a chance for a better life without, crossing the border.
Video

Video 'Fab Lab' Igniting Revolution in Kenya

The University of Nairobi’s Science and Technology Park is banking on 3-D prototyping to spark a manufacturing revolution in the country. Lenny Ruvaga has more for from Nairobi's so-called “FabLab” for VOA.
Video

Video Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelter

Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Rapid Spread of Ebola in West Africa Prompts Global Alert

Across West Africa, health officials are struggling to keep up with what the World Health Organization describes as the worst ebola outbreak on record. The virus has killed hundreds of people this year. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are watching the developments closely as they weigh what actions, if any, are needed to help contain the disease.
Video

Video Michelle Obama: Young Africans Need to Embrace Women's Rights

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama urged some of Africa's best and brightest to advocate for women's rights in their home countries. As VOA's Pam Dockins explains, Obama spoke to some 500 participants of the Young African Leaders Initiative, a six-week U.S.-based training and development program.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.
Video

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Even though legal school segregation ended in the United States 60 years ago, one study finds segregation still occurs in the U.S. based on income and race. The University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project finds that students in California are more segregated by race than ever before, especially Latinos. Elizabeth Lee reports for VOA from Los Angeles.

AppleAndroid