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

UN Ambassador Power Highlights Plight of Women Prisoners

She launches the 'Free the 20' campaign, aimed at profiling women being deprived of their freedom around the world More

Satellite Launch Sparks Spectacular Light Show

A slight delay in a satellite launch lit up the Florida sky early this morning More

Fleeing IS Killings in Syria, Family Reaches Bavaria

Exhausted, scared and under-nourished, Khalil and Maha's tale mirrors those of thousands of refugees from war-torn countries who have left their homes in the hopes of finding a better life 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.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs