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Minnesota sends first Muslim to Congress: media

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  • Greg Cannon
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 7 8:24 PM

      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.
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