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7749Converts/Reverts: US mayor converts to Islam

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  • Zafar Khan
    Feb 3, 2007
      US mayor converts to Islam
      The Associated Press
      Published: February 2, 2007


      MACON, Georgia: Macon Mayor Jack Ellis has converted
      to Islam and is now working to legally change his name
      to Hakim Mansour Ellis.

      Ellis, who was raised Christian, said Thursday that he
      became a Sunni Muslim during a December ceremony in
      the west African nation of Senegal.

      "You do it because it feels right," said Ellis. "To me
      it's no big deal. But people like to know what you
      believe in. And this is what I believe in."

      Ellis said he has been studying the Quran for years
      and that his new religion was originally practiced by
      his ancestors before they were brought to North
      America as slaves.

      At the request of his two of his daughters, Ellis said
      he will keep his last name the same.

      Ellis has not ruled out future runs for elected office
      after his term expires this year. But he said he had
      not made any calculations for how his religious
      conversion might affect him politically. He said he is
      an American first and is proud to live in a country
      founded on religious freedom.

      In January Rep. Keith Ellison took office as the first
      Muslim elected to the U.S. Congress. The Michigan
      Democrat was born in Detroit and converted to Islam
      while in college.

      Ellis said Muslims should not be painted with a broad
      brush simply because of a few radicals.

      "If anybody wants to know about Islam, I can hold an
      intelligent conversation," Ellis said. "What I've
      found is how little we know about the religion."

      Ellis says he's converted to Islam and wants name
      By Matt Barnwell


      Macon Mayor Jack Ellis has converted to Islam and is
      working to legally change his name to Hakim Mansour

      The mayor, raised as a Christian, said Thursday that
      he has been studying the Koran for years and made the
      religious switch at a December ceremony in the country
      of Senegal on the western African coast. Ellis is now
      a Sunni Muslim, having chosen a religion he said was
      originally practiced by his west African ancestors
      before they were brought to America by slave traders.

      Ellis said his decision was a personal one, though he
      understands his elected position breeds public
      interest in his choice. It was not something he
      decided overnight to do, he said.

      "Why does one become a Christian? ... You do it
      because it feels right. It's the right thing for you
      to do. ... To me it's no big deal. But people like to
      know what you believe in. And this is what I believe

      The Founding Fathers and Islam
      Library Papers Show Early Tolerance for Muslim Faith
      May 2002


      With more than 55 million items, the Library's
      Manuscript Division contains the papers of 23
      presidents, from George Washington to Calvin Coolidge.
      In this article, Manuscript Division Chief James
      Hutson draws upon the papers of Washington, Thomas
      Jefferson and other primary documents to discuss the
      relationship of Islam to the new nation.

      Many Muslims feel unwelcome in the United States in
      the aftermath of September 11, according to newspaper
      reports. Anecdotal evidence suggests that substantial
      numbers of Americans view their Muslim neighbors as an
      alien presence outside the limits of American life and
      history. While other minorities—African Americans,
      Hispanics and Native Americans—were living within the
      boundaries of the present United States from the
      earliest days of the nation, Muslims are perceived to
      have had no part in the American experience.

      Readers may be surprised to learn that there may have
      been hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Muslims in the
      United States in 1776—imported as slaves from areas of
      Africa where Islam flourished. Although there is no
      evidence that the Founders were aware of the religious
      convictions of their bondsmen, it is clear that the
      Founding Fathers thought about the relationship of
      Islam to the new nation and were prepared to make a
      place for it in the republic.

      In his seminal Letter on Toleration (1689), John Locke
      insisted that Muslims and all others who believed in
      God be tolerated in England. Campaigning for religious
      freedom in Virginia, Jefferson followed Locke, his
      idol, in demanding recognition of the religious rights
      of the "Mahamdan," the Jew and the "pagan." Supporting
      Jefferson was his old ally, Richard Henry Lee, who had
      made a motion in Congress on June 7, 1776, that the
      American colonies declare independence. "True
      freedom," Lee asserted, "embraces the Mahomitan and
      the Gentoo (Hindu) as well as the Christian religion."

      In his autobiography, Jefferson recounted with
      satisfaction that in the struggle to pass his landmark
      Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom (1786), the
      Virginia legislature "rejected by a great majority" an
      effort to limit the bill's scope "in proof that they
      meant to comprehend, within the mantle of its
      protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and
      Mahometan." George Washington suggested a way for
      Muslims to "obtain proper relief" from a proposed
      Virginia bill, laying taxes to support Christian
      worship. On another occasion, the first president
      declared that he would welcome "Mohometans" to Mount
      Vernon if they were "good workmen" (see page 96).
      Officials in Massachusetts were equally insistent that
      their influential Constitution of 1780 afforded "the
      most ample liberty of conscience … to Deists,
      Mahometans, Jews and Christians," a point that Chief
      Justice Theophilus Parsons resoundingly affirmed in

      Toward Islam itself the Founding generation held
      differing views. An evangelical Baptist spokesman
      denounced "Mahomet" as a "hateful" figure who, unlike
      the meek and gentle Jesus, spread his religion at the
      point of a sword. A Presbyterian preacher in rural
      South Carolina dusted off Grotius' 17th century
      reproach that the "religion of Mahomet originated in
      arms, breathes nothing but arms, is propagated by
      arms." Other, more influential observers had a
      different view of Muslims. In 1783, the president of
      Yale College, Ezra Stiles, cited a study showing that
      "Mohammadan" morals were "far superior to the
      Christian." Another New Englander believed that the
      "moral principles that were inculcated by their
      teachers had a happy tendency to render them good
      members of society." The reference here, as other
      commentators made clear, was to Islam's belief, which
      it shared with Christianity, in a "future state of
      rewards and punishments," a system of celestial
      carrots and sticks which the Founding generation
      considered necessary to guarantee good social conduct.

      "A Mahometan," wrote a Boston newspaper columnist,
      "is excited to the practice of good morals in hopes
      that after the resurrection he shall enjoy the
      beautiful girls of paradise to all eternity; he is
      afraid to commit murder, adultery and theft, lest he
      should be cast into hell, where he must drink scalding
      water and the scum of the damned." Benjamin Rush, the
      Pennsylvania signer of the Declaration of Independence
      and friend of Adams and Jefferson, applauded this
      feature of Islam, asserting that he had "rather see
      the opinions of Confucius or Mohammed inculcated upon
      our youth than see them grow up wholly devoid of a
      system of religious principles."

      That ordinary citizens shared these positive views is
      demonstrated by a petition of a group of citizens of
      Chesterfield County, Va., to the state assembly, Nov.
      14, 1785: "Let Jews, Mehometans and Christians of
      every denomination enjoy religious liberty…thrust them
      not out now by establishing the Christian religion
      lest thereby we become our own enemys and weaken this
      infant state. It is mens labour in our Manufactories,
      their services by sea and land that aggrandize our
      Country and not their creeds. Chain your citizens to
      the state by their Interest. Let Jews, Mehometans, and
      Christians of every denomination find their advantage
      in living under your laws."

      The Founders of this nation explicitly included Islam
      in their vision of the future of the republic. Freedom
      of religion, as they conceived it, encompassed it.
      Adherents of the faith were, with some exceptions,
      regarded as men and women who would make law-abiding,
      productive citizens. Far from fearing Islam, the
      Founders would have incorporated it into the fabric of
      American life.

      James H. Hutson is chief of the Manuscript Division
      and the author of many books, including, most
      recently, "Religion and the Founding of the American
      Republic," 1998.

      US Mayor Reverts to Islam
      IslamOnline.net & News Agencies


      MACON, Georgia — The mayor of Macon in the American
      state of Georgia, a practicing Christian, has reverted
      to Islam, saying he went back to his roots after years
      of soul-searching.
      "Why does one become a Christian? You do it because it
      feels right. . . . To me, it’s no big deal. But people
      like to know what you believe in," Jack Ellis, who
      changed his name to Hakim Mansour Ellis, was quoted as
      saying Saturday, February 3, by the American Boston
      Herald newspaper.

      Ellis noted that he studied the Noble Qur'an for years
      and found his destination in Islam following a trip to
      the African country of Senegal, saying that his new
      religion was practiced by his ancestors before they
      were brought to North America as slaves.

      "I did revert to Islam in December of this past year
      in the country of Senegal," he said in statements
      carried Saturday by WMAZ-TV, a local television in the
      City of Columbia, South Carolina.

      The father-of-five said he started praying five times
      a day and regularly frequents the Islamic Center on
      Bloomfield Road, proud of religious freedom in the
      United States.

      He said although he reverted to Islam, he does not
      rank religions.

      "I'm not saying that one is better than the other,"
      Ellis said.

      "We do believe that the prophet Muhammad was the last
      prophet as well as we believe Moses was a prophet,"
      Ellis added.

      Born on January 6, 1946 in Macon, Ellis holds a
      Bachelor of Arts Degree from St. Leo College in

      According to his website, Ellis served two years of
      combat duty in Vietnam as a paratrooper platoon
      sergeant with the 101st Airborne Division.

      He was awarded three Bronze Stars, the Army
      Commendation Medal for Valor and Heroism, and the
      Purple Heart for wounds received in combat.

      Ellis will complete his second consecutive four-year
      term, as a mayor of Macon, in December and isn't
      eligible for re-election. But he said he might run for
      Georgia's 8th District congressional seat in 2008.

      Ellis was first sworn in as Mayor of Macon on December
      14, 1999 becoming the first black Mayor in the city’s
      176-year history.

      He is the 40th mayor of Macon and currently serving
      his second term.

      Back to Roots

      Ellis said felt home when he accepted Islam.

      "I went back to my roots I guess you could say," he

      He said that although his reversion is a personnel
      affair, it is the right of voters, as long as he is a
      public figure, to know his decision.

      "It's a personal decision, a private decision as to
      how one worships. But I do understand that I'm not a
      private person," Ellis said.

      "But being the mayor of the city, I think people have
      a right to know what I believe in, that I am a man of
      faith, and the faith I'm now a part of is the faith of
      Islam," he added.

      Voters reelected Ellis as he made Macon one of the
      most livable cities in America.

      He used his Federal and State grants to assist the
      youth in job training, mentoring, tutoring,
      after-school programs and crime reduction programs.

      He built over forty affordable houses marketed to
      first time homebuyers.

      Ellish is presently constructing hundreds of
      affordable and market-rate houses in the Beall’s Hill
      area, according to his website.

      "Now, I'm sharing with my broader family, the Macon
      community who supported me when I was a Christian and
      trust that they will now," Ellis said.

      "I'm the same person even though I'll be changing my
      name," he added.