Some honest questions for Keith Ellison below.
In this article by Niraj Warikoo in the Detroit Free Press (thanks to Twostellas), Ellison is defiant:
Speaking in Dearborn late Sunday night, the first Muslim elected to Congress told a cheering crowd of Muslims they should remain steadfast in their faith and push for justice.
"You can't back down, you can't chicken out, you can't be afraid, you got to have faith in Allah, and you got to stand up and be a real Muslim," Detroit native Keith Ellison said to loud applause.
"Allahu akbar" — God is great — was the reply of many in the crowd.
Ellison, a Minnesota Democrat elected to the U.S. House, has been the center of a national debate in recent weeks over Islam and its role in politics. Ellison has said he would take his oath of office on the Quran, the Muslim holy book, igniting a storm of criticism from some commentators. And U.S. Rep. Virgil Goode, a Republican from Virginia, said in a letter to constituents this month that the election of Ellison and other Muslims poses a danger to the country.
But Ellison said in Dearborn that Muslims can help teach America about justice and equal protection, suggesting that Muslim activists may be part of God's plan. He spoke at the annual convention of two Muslim groups, the Muslim American Society and the Islamic Circle of North America. The convention ended Monday morning.
The Muslim American Society has ties to the Muslim Brotherhood and does not deny a report published in the Chicago Tribune in 2004 that it hopes to replace the U.S. Constitution with the Qur'an. According to terror expert Steven Emerson, the Islamic Circle of North America "Another individual who was quoted in the New York Times was an official of the Islamic Circle of North America, again portrayed as a mainstream group. What they didn't reveal is the Islamic Circle of North America "is a Jamad Islamia group, which is on record as calling for jihad in the United States, to promote the notion of an Islamic world. ICNA also published something very recently saying that they are against suicide bombings, except when it comes to killing Israelis."
Does Ellison endorse these views? Would he kindly issue an unequivocal statement affirming that he does not?
"Muslims, you're up to bat right now..." he said. "How do you know that you were not brought right here to this place to learn how to make this world better? How do you know that Allah, subhanahu wa ta'ala,” (meaning praised and exalted is he) “did not bring you here so that you could understand how to teach people what tolerance was, what justice was?… How do you know that you're not here to teach this country?"
Fine. Teach us. Teach us how Sharia is compatible with the Constitution. Take head-on the questions about non-establishment of religion, freedom of conscience, and equality of rights for women and religious minorities that raise legitimate questions about the compatibility of Sharia and the Bill of Rights. Discuss these questions openly, rather than indignantly claiming that to ask them is to manifest "bigotry."
The convention, which ends today, drew more than 3,000 Muslims from across the country for an event aimed at revival and reform. It featured workshops and panels on a range of topics from civil rights to politics to how to spread Islam in the U.S.
Ellison, who converted to Islam during college, made his remarks at the Hyatt Regency, the site of the five-day convention. He spoke about the controversies he has faced in recent weeks.
"We had faith in Allah," Ellison said. "And we patiently endured this adversity. And facing adversity bravely and with patience in the faith in Allah is an Islamic value. … That's what it means to be a Muslim."
He cautioned though that there might be more anti-Muslim attacks in the future.
"We're going to continue to face them," Ellison said. "They're not going to stop right away. But if you, and me too, stick together, if we believe in Allah, subhanahu wa ta'ala, if we turn to the Quran for guidance, we'll find an answer to the questions we have. And we will find that we are an asset and a plus not only to our own community, but to this country, and to this whole world."
Ellison vowed to use the Quran during his swearing in ceremony next month.
"On Jan. 4, I will go swear an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States. I'll place my hand on the Quran," Ellison said while placing his hand on the lectern, to loud applause and cries of "Allahu akbar."
No he won't. No book is used in the swearing-in of Congressmen. Ellison is probably speaking of a photo-op with the House Speaker that takes place after the swearing-in. Still, the symbolic value of the photo will be significant.
He urged Muslims to thank God for testing them over the past several weeks. "Before you begin to think that some hardship has befallen you, you need to stop and thank Allah," Ellison said. "Because this controversy has...made people dust off their Constitution and actually read it ."
Good. That's a positive development.