7749Converts/Reverts: US mayor converts to Islam
- Feb 3, 2007US 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
TELEGRAPH STAFF WRITER
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
By JAMES H. HUTSON
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 minoritiesAfrican Americans,
Hispanics and Native Americanswere 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 1776imported 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
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
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
"Why does one become a Christian? You do it because it
feels right. . . . To me, its 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
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
He said although he reverted to Islam, he does not
"I'm not saying that one is better than the other,"
"We do believe that the prophet Muhammad was the last
prophet as well as we believe Moses was a prophet,"
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 citys
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 Bealls 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.