Voting for Keith Ellison was a way for Minnesotans in his district to demonstrate, to themselves and to others, that they were certifiably tolerant, impeccably broad-minded. All the better if it was done without even making a move to find out what might be in the texts, tenets, attitudes, and atmospherics of Islam to cause disquiet.
Such holier-than-thou voters were not really voting for Ellison. They were voting for themselves. And in voting for themselves, in giving themselves a pat on the back and a vote of moral self-confidence, they did not wish to have their minds violated by facts, by what they might have found out if they had actually looked into Islam. That would only have confused them. That would only have been an obstacle in the project of self-appreciation.
As he enters the voting booth and makes his little marks on the computer-legible piece of paper, this kind of voter hears the distant voice of someone reading from “Leaves of Grass”:
“Do I celebrate myself? Very well then, I celebrate myself.”
Vote for someone, so that when you cast that vote — never mind the actual positions or possible dangers of that candidate winning — you can feel good about yourself. Isn’t that what life is supposed to be all about? Feeling Good? And isn’t Feeling Good About Yourself part of Feeling Good? Of course it is. Vote for Ellison.
Voting as a branch of Self-Esteem Studies.
But now that he has been elected by these self-satisfied Minnesotans, everything should be done to clarify his positions. Interviewers should use the occasion of his swearing-in on the Qur’an to read aloud 9.29 and 9.5 and the rest of Sura 9, and then all the other Jihad verses, and then from the hadith, and then from the life of Muhammad. Others will scream, “a man’s religion should not be an issue” and “that’s un-American.” Let them. A man’s religion should be an issue — if that “religion” is far more than a religion, if it is a complete politico-religio-socio-economico-whateveroyouwant, then it is legitimate, it is incumbent upon any incumbent or non-incumbent to raise the question. Simply reply that a belief-system as all-encompassing as Islam has become a political issue because Ellison has made it one. Ellison, after all, voluntarily subscribes to it and made an effort to belong to it (rather than simply being one of those people born into it). He has had years to discover what Islam teaches, what it is all about, so he cannot at this point claim, “I was unaware of those passages.” His answers, therefore, about how these passages are to be taken will be instructive.
What are we to make of a Congressman who professes to believe in a holy book that includes 9.29 and 9.5 and so much else? What are we to believe of a Congressman who believes that Muhammad is the Perfect Man, uswa hasana, al-insan al-kamil? We want to know details. We have to know details. We have a right to know details. What about the attack on the Khaybar Oasis? What about all the rest, all of which is now no longer hidden, but is becoming every day the common talk of non-Muslims as they begin to find out more about this?
Where does the Congressman stand on the Danish cartoons? On “treaties” signed by Israel with Muslim states or polities and the Muslim model for all such treaties, the agreement of Al-Hudaibiyya? And there is so much more to discuss. Any journalist who refrains from asking about this would be doing the public a disservice. We need to know. And we need to know, finally, what Mr. Ellison makes of Taqiyya and Kitman, what he makes of Muhammad’s statement “war is deception,” and what he actually knows of the real Islam, and not, possibly, His Own Private Islam.
Once upon a time some of this might, in our innocence, have been overlooked. It might still be overlooked by some, who think it infra dig to ask such questions. Our safety, and our lives, depend on the asking, and re-asking, of such questions.
Make it an issue. Ask Ellison what he thinks of Muhammad’s behavior with the Banu Qurayza, or with Asma bint Marwan. Do not forget to mention little Aisha. Ask what he thinks. He will either have to denounce all that, or he will not — and if he does not, that will be telling.
Use his election as a Teaching Moment.
And resist all attempts to head off such questioning by saying that this is “beyond the scope of legitimate debate” and so on and so bloody forth. It isn’t. It must not be.