WASHINGTON (AP) “” Rep. Keith Ellison made a weekend trip to Iraq, where a pair of sheiks urged Congress’ only Muslim lawmaker to help in countering al-Qaeda’s vision of Islam.
Ellison, D-Minn., said he met in Ramadi in Anbar province with the two sheiks, who oversee several hundred thousand congregants.
“They were very upset and concerned that al-Qaeda is misrepresenting Islam,” Ellison told reporters on a conference call Monday from Germany, on his way back to the U.S. “And they were talking to me about what I can possibly do to work with them to give a clearer, more accurate picture of what Islam is all about.”
Do they want Ellison to do this work among Muslims, or among non-Muslims? I suspect it’s the latter. But then there is this:
Ellison said he would assist in any way he can. He is already helping a State Department outreach effort aimed at improving the image of the U.S. in the Muslim world.
Ellison, a vocal critic of the Iraq war, said he still believes it was a mistake for the U.S. to invade Iraq.
“But there are 150,000 American soldiers there now, and I care very deeply about them,” said Ellison, one of six members on the all-freshman trip led by Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Calif. “I also care about the Iraqi people. I don’t want to see them suffer.”
The group met with Iraqi and U.S. military officials, including Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq….
“The success in Ramadi is not just because of bombs and bullets, but because the U.S. and Iraqi military and the Iraqi police are partnering with the tribal leadership and the religious leadership,” he said. “So they’re not trying to just bomb people into submission. What they’re doing is respecting the people, giving the people some control over their own lives.”
When were American forces in Iraq ever “trying to just bomb people into submission”?
Ellison said he was particularly impressed watching Maj. Gen. Walter Gaskin, U.S. commander in the Anbar province, greeting people with “as-salama aleikum,” meaning peace be upon you.
“And they would respond back with smiles and waves,” Ellison said. “I don’t want to overplay it. There were no flowers. There was no clapping. There was no parade. But there was a general level of respect and calm that I thought was good.”
Smiles and waves? No “wa aleikum as-salaamu”? Did they perhaps feel it improper, since it is forbidden in Islamic law, to wish peace upon a non-Muslim?