Minnesota sends first Muslim to Congress: media
Tue Nov 7, 2006 10:14pm ET29
MINNEAPOLIS (Reuters) - Voters elected a black
Democrat as the first Muslim in Congress on Tuesday
after a race in which he advocated quick U.S.
withdrawal from Iraq and made little mention of his
Keith Ellison, a 43-year-old lawyer and state
representative, defeated two rivals, television
networks said, to succeed retiring Democrat Martin
Sabo in a seat that has been held by Democrats since
Ellison, who converted to Islam as a 19-year-old
college student in his native Detroit, won with the
help of Muslims among a coalition of liberal, anti-war
He advocates an immediate U.S. withdrawal from Iraq
along with strongly liberal views. While Ellison did
not often speak of his faith during the campaign,
awareness of his candidacy drew interest from Muslims
well beyond the district centered in Minneapolis.
A significant community of Somali immigrants in
Minneapolis cast their first votes for him in the
crowded September primary. Ellison also was the
surprise choice of party regulars.
While Muslim-Americans make up less than 3 percent of
the U.S. population and have largely been a non-factor
in terms of political power, get-out-the-vote efforts
in several Muslim communities could indicate they may
become an emerging force.
Roughly 2 million Muslims are registered U.S. voters,
and their ranks increased by tens of thousands in the
weeks prior to Tuesday's mid-term elections, Muslim
groups have said.
Since the September 11, 2001, attacks by Islamic
militants, Muslim-Americans have become sensitized to
what many feel is an erosion of their civil rights.
U.S. foreign policy that targets Muslim countries also
has generated a sense of urgency, experts said.
"(Americans) treat us differently after September 11.
My own father was attacked," said Ellison supporter
Khadra Darsame, a 1995 immigrant from Somalia.
"Ellison said everybody matters equally and he told us
what he would do ... he will do the right thing."
Born into a Roman Catholic family in Detroit, Ellison
said his values were shaped by both faiths, along with
his grandfather's civil rights work in the Deep South.
Opponents focused on Ellison's sloppy handling of his
taxes and a slew of unpaid parking tickets, along with
his one-time affiliation with the Nation of Islam,
whose leader, Louis Farrakhan, has been criticized for
making anti-Semitic remarks. Ellison subsequently said
he worked with the group largely to promote the 1995
Million Man March.