Cultural Revolutions

A Muslim in Congress

Keith Ellison won the nomination of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party on September 12 to represent Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District, which centers on the city of Minneapolis; he seems all but certain to win the general election against the Republican nominee, Alan Fine.

Ellison’s primary victory has generated tremendous national media attention, because his likely triumph in November would mark the first election of a Muslim to Congress.  (Ellison, who is black, would also be the first black representative from Minnesota.)  This might be remarkable enough in American politics five years after September 11, but it seems even more surprising given Ellison’s past associations with the Nation of Islam and his ongoing personal ties to Palestinian-born Nihad Awad, cofounder of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).

Ellison, a former Catholic, converted to Islam in college and entered the orbit of Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam in the early 1990’s, working as an organizer during the group’s original 1995 “Million Man March,” but he has since claimed to have distanced himself from the group and its racist and antisemitic ideas.  As for CAIR’s Awad, Ellison has known him since his days at the University of Minnesota and has had Awad speak at fundraisers for his campaign.  Predictably enough, Ellison’s electoral success in the predominantly...

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