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

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

America's Most Exotic Presidential Pets

From alligators to bears, the White House has been home to some unusual presidential pets over the years 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.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs