KEITH MAURICE ELLISON (born August 4, 1963) is an American
politician. He has been the U.S. Representative for Minnesota\'s 5th
congressional district since 2007 and Deputy Chair of the Democratic
National Committee since 2017. Ellison is a member of the
Democratic–Farmer–Labor Party (DFL), the
Democratic Party affiliate. The district centers on
surrounding suburbs. He is a co-chair of the Congressional Progressive
Caucus and a Chief Deputy Whip, and also serves on the House Committee
on Financial Services .
Ellison was the first
Muslim to be elected to the U.S. Congress , and
André Carson of Indiana, is one of two Muslims now serving
in Congress. He is also the first
African American to have been
elected to the U.S. House from
In November 2016, progressive groups and United States senators,
Bernie Sanders of Vermont, supported Ellison for chair of
Democratic National Committee
Democratic National Committee . On February 25, 2017, minutes
after defeating him on the second ballot, newly elected Chairman Tom
Perez motioned for Ellison to be elected his Deputy Chair, which was
approved by a unanimous voice vote of DNC members.
* 1 Early life, education, and career
* 1.1 Family
Minnesota House of Representatives
* 3 U.S. House of Representatives
* 3.1 Elections
* 3.2 Tenure
* 3.2.1 Credit reform
* 3.3 Committee assignments
* 3.3.1 Caucus membership
* 4 Candidacy for Chair of
Democratic National Committee
Democratic National Committee
* 5 Political positions
* 5.1 Abortion
* 5.2 LGBT rights
* 5.3 Gun rights
* 5.5 Iran
* 5.6 Bush administration
* 5.7 Trump administration
* 5.8 Human rights
* 5.9 2016 U.S. presidential election endorsements
* 6 Travels abroad
* 6.1 Middle East
* 6.1.2 Israel and the Palestinian territories
* 6.1.3 Gaza and
* 6.2 Norway
* 6.3 Africa
* 7 Advocacy for American Muslims
* 7.1 North American Imams Federation
* 7.2 MOSES interfaith group
* 8 Promoting U.S. with the State Department
* 9 Issues and controversies
* 9.1 Qur\'an oath of office
* 9.2 Interview with
Louis Farrakhan and history with the Nation of
* 9.3.1 Denunciation of the Nation of
Islam in 2006
* 9.4 Campaign contributions from members of CAIR
* 9.5 Campaign finance violations
Reichstag fire and 9/11
* 9.7 Sali remarks
* 10 Awards
* 11 Memoir
* 12 Electoral history
* 13 See also
* 14 References
* 15 External links
EARLY LIFE, EDUCATION, AND CAREER
Keith Ellison, the third of five sons, was raised
Michigan , by his parents, Leonard Ellison, a social worker
and psychiatrist , and Clida (Martinez) Ellison. Ellison and three
of his brothers became lawyers; his other brother became a doctor. One
of Ellison's brothers is also the pastor of the Baptist "Church of the
New Covenant" in Detroit. Ellison's youth was influenced by the
involvement of his family in the
Civil Rights Movement
Civil Rights Movement , including his
grandfather's work as a member of the NAACP in
Ellison (left) volunteering with Rabbi
Steve Gutow (right) at the DC
Central Kitchen in
Washington, D.C. in September 2007
Ellison graduated in 1981 from the University of
Detroit Jesuit High
School and Academy , where he was active in sports and a senator in
the student government. At the age of 19, while attending Wayne
State University in
Detroit , Ellison converted from Catholicism to
Islam , later giving the following explanation: "I can't claim that I
was the most observant
Catholic at the time . I had begun to really
look around and ask myself about the social circumstances of the
country, issues of justice, issues of change. When I looked at my
spiritual life, and I looked at what might inform social change,
justice in society... I found Islam."
After graduating with a
Bachelor of Arts in economics in 1987,
Ellison married his high school sweetheart and moved to Minneapolis
to attend the University of
Minnesota Law School . While there, he
wrote several articles in support of
Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of
Islam . Ellison graduated with a
Juris Doctor in 1990.
After law school, Ellison worked for three years at the firm of
Lindquist & Vennum, where he was a litigator specializing in civil
rights, employment, and criminal defense law. Ellison then became
executive director of the nonprofit Legal Rights Center in
Minneapolis, which specializes in the defense of indigent clients.
Upon leaving the Legal Rights Center, Ellison entered private practice
with the law firm Hassan & Reed Ltd, specializing in trial practice.
Ellison has also been regularly involved in community service. He
served as the unpaid host of a public affairs talk program at KMOJ
radio, and has also often volunteered as a track coach for several
organizations, working with youth between the ages of five and 18. He
said, "It’s a great community-building device because it’s for all
ages and all genders. Everyone can find a way to fit in."
Ellison and his former wife, Kim, a high school mathematics teacher,
had four children between 1989 and 1997. Kim Ellison is not Muslim,
but their four children were raised in that faith. During Ellison's
2006 campaign, Kim Ellison revealed that she had been living with
moderate multiple sclerosis for several years. Ellison filed for a
legal separation from Kim in 2010, and their divorce was finalized on
May 2, 2012.
Kim was elected to the
Minneapolis School Board in 2012 as vice-chair
and in November 2016 as an at-large member. In December 2016, the
Ellisons' oldest son, Jeremiah, announced his candidacy for
Minneapolis City Council . In April 2017, he received the endorsement
of the DFL party for that race, defeating the current incumbent.
MINNESOTA HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
In November 2002, Ellison was elected to his first public office, as
a member of the
Minnesota House of Representatives serving House
District 58B. At the time he took his seat, his party was the smallest
House minority in
Minnesota history. During this session, Ellison was
appointed to the Governmental Operations & Veterans Affairs Policy
Committee, the Judiciary Policy & Finance Committee and the Local
Government & Metropolitan Affairs Committee. He also spearheaded an
ethics complaint against Rep. Arlon Lindner for a speech Lindner made
that Ellison alleged amounted to a denial that homosexuals were
persecuted during the Holocaust.
Ellison was reelected to his seat in 2004 with 84% of the vote.
During the 84th session, he served on the Civil Law & Elections
Committee and the Public Safety Policy "> Ellison during the 2006
See also: Minnesota\'s 5th congressional district election, 2006
THIS SECTION NEEDS EXPANSION. You can help by adding to it . (July
Ellison's House seat was previously held by
Martin Olav Sabo , whose
announcement of his intention to retire precipitated Ellison's
candidacy. At the DFL Convention on May 6, 2006, Ellison won the party
endorsement over 9 other candidates, leading 2-to-1 on the first
ballot, and winning endorsement on the fourth ballot. In the primary,
Ellison faced former state senator
Ember Reichgott Junge , Minneapolis
city council member Paul Ostrow, and Sabo's chief of staff Mike
Erlandson , whom Sabo had endorsed. Ellison won the primary on
September 12, 2006, with 41% of the vote. One issue Ellison's
campaign opponents raised was the repeated suspension of his driver's
license for failure to pay tickets and fines. Ellison had also failed
to pay all or part of his income taxes in five separate years between
1992 and 2000, forcing the state and
Internal Revenue Service
Internal Revenue Service to put
liens on his home. He later paid in excess of $18,000.
In the November 2006 election, Ellison faced Republican Alan Fine,
the Green Party 's Jay Pond, and
Tammy Lee of the Independence Party .
Ellison won the seat with 56% of the vote.
Ellison was elected to the House of Representatives on November 7,
2006, and sworn in on January 4, 2007. He garnered national attention
with his decision to use an English translation of the Qur\'an ,
translated by British scholar
George Sale in 1734, that once belonged
Thomas Jefferson for his reenacted swearing-in ceremony ,
which generated praise and criticisms from political pundits.
At the time of his swearing in, Ellison said he intended to focus on
wages, housing, "relief and justice for the middle class", and ending
the U.S. involvement in the
Iraq War . Ellison was also a vocal
critic of President George W. Bush\'s administration , and sought a
position on the House Judiciary Committee for oversight.
In his first week as a member of Congress, Ellison voted with the new
Democratic majority as part of the
100-Hour Plan to raise the minimum
wage , for federal funding of stem cell research, and to allow
Medicare to negotiate pharmaceutical prices.
On April 3, 2014, Ellison introduced the Money Remittances
Improvement Act of 2014 (H.R. 4386; 113th Congress) into the United
States House. The bill would make it easier for nonbank financial
institutions such as money service businesses to provide remittance
payments internationally. Ellison said that "passage of the Money
Remittances Improvement Act is cause for celebration for all diaspora
communities, including the Somali and Hmong communities I am proud to
represent in Minnesota."
Ellison outside the Capitol in June 2007
On May 3, 2007, Ellison introduced a bill to outlaw universal default
, the practice whereby credit card companies raise interest rates on
customers who are behind on payments to other creditors. The bill was
House Financial Services Committee chairman Barney Frank
. Ellison, who described the bill as "the beginning of a whole credit
reform effort we're going to be pursuing," also announced his interest
in limiting high interest rates on credit cards and easing the process
for those who have a legitimate need to file bankruptcy . This
provision ultimately became law in 2009 as part of the "Credit
Cardholders' Bill of Rights" portion of the
Credit CARD Act of 2009 .
Mary Fallin , Keith Ellison, and
Jerry McNerney meeting
David Petraeus in 2007
* COMMITTEE ON FINANCIAL SERVICES (since January 12, 2007)
* Subcommittee on Capital Markets and Government-Sponsored
* Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations
* Terms on Committee (and "Thomas" links at the Library of
Congress): 113th Congress (H.Res. 7 - Dem's), 112th (H.Res. 39 -
Dem's), 111th (H.Res. 24) and 110th (H.Res. 56).
* COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN AFFAIRS
* 111th Congress , 2009-2010 (H.Res. 74 and a JANUARY 29, 2009
ELLISON PRESS RELEASE )
* JUDICIARY COMMITTEE
* 110th Congress , 2007-2008 (H.Res. 75)
Congressional Progressive Caucus
Congressional Progressive Caucus (Co-chair)
* Congressional Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Caucus (Vice-chair)
CANDIDACY FOR CHAIR OF DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE
Democratic National Committee chairmanship election, 2017
In the autumn of 2016, Ellison was endorsed by both Senator Bernie
Sanders and incoming Senate Minority Leader
Chuck Schumer . In
November 2016 outgoing Senate Minority Leader
Harry Reid endorsed
Ellison for DNC chair. Obama loyalists were uneasy with Ellison, and
began looking for a candidate to oppose him, holding meetings with
Obama Administration labor secretary
Thomas Perez . In early December
Ellison's endorsements included the
AFL–CIO and several elected
officials in Congress, including Senators Elizabeth Warren and Martin
Heinrich, and Representatives John Lewis, Luis Gutierrez and Tulsi
Gabbard, among others.
In November 2016, the
Investigative Project on Terrorism published a
2010 speech in which Ellison asked why the United States foreign
policy in the Middle East "is governed by what is good or bad through
a country of 7 million people. A region of 350 million all turns on a
country of 7 million. Does that make sense? Is that logic?" The
Anti-Defamation League (ADL) effectively announced its opposition to
Ellison's candidacy, issuing a press release saying that his statement
"raises serious concerns about whether Ellison faithfully could
represent the Democratic Party's traditional support for a strong and
CNN also reported on his past support for
anti-Semitic and radical organizations and individuals, particularly
the Nation of
Louis Farrakhan , but noted they found no
anti-Semitic writings or public statements by Ellison, and cited his
public rejection of the group "due to its propagation of bigoted and
anti-Semitic ideas and statements". The
New York Times
New York Times reported that
one of the Democratic Party's biggest donors,
Haim Saban , said in his
2016 foreign policy forum that Ellison is "clearly an anti-Semitic and
anti-Israel person.” Reporters from the
Washington Post , Slate and
Huffington Post have described this as part of a smear campaign
against Ellison, and note that Ellison's rivals agreed that Saban
should apologize for the comments. Schumer replied to critics,
saying that Ellison has supported pro-Israeli policies within the
Democratic Party, telling
The Atlantic that "while I disagree with
some of past positions, I saw him orchestrate one of the most
pro-Israel platforms in decades by successfully persuading other
skeptical committee members to adopt such a strong platform."
Opposition also arose from Democrats concerned that Ellison, a
sitting congressman, would not be able to devote himself to the
position full-time. In response, Ellison pledged that he would resign
from Congress if he won the election. Others opposed him on
ideological grounds, characterized by
National Public Radio
National Public Radio as
representing the party's division in the 2016 Democratic presidential
primary between centrist supporters of
Hillary Clinton and the party's
left wing, which backed Bernie Sanders. But
that Perez and Ellison have "essentially identical" ideologies.
By February 2017, Perez was perceived as the front-runner, according
to The New York Times. A member of
TYT spotted Ellison and Perez
dining together a week before the election was held. Upon being
elected chair, Perez quickly motioned for Ellison to be elected
"deputy chair," saying, "it is a motion that I have discussed with a
good friend, and his name is Keith Ellison". The two newly elected
chairs worked together when Perez was labor secretary, and he has
regarded Ellison as one of his "best allies". The position of
"deputy chair" does not exist in the DNC's bylaws.
Play media Ellison on The Laura Flanders Show, February 2016
Play media Ellison on progressive politics in the United States
In 2009 and 2011, Ellison had a 100% rating from NARAL Pro-Choice
America indicating a pro-choice voting record.
In an interview with the BBC's program Outlook, on November 12, 2010,
Ellison was asked to describe his constituents. He answered, "The
district I represent is the kind of district where you can have a
Member of Congress stand up for religious tolerance and against
religious bigotry, against anyone, but also stand up for the rights of
gays, too." In Congress, he served as vice-chair of the Congressional
Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Caucus.
In March 2014, Ellison was asked by comedian
Bill Maher , "Then why
doesn't your party come out against the Second Amendment ? It's the
problem." Ellison responded, "I sure wish they would. I sure wish they
George W. Bush
George W. Bush vetoed HR 1591 that provided military
funding for the
Iraq War because it contained timetables for
withdrawal, Ellison and fellow
Betty McCollum , joined
Nancy Pelosi and other top House Democrats in voting
"no" to HR 2206 that provided the funding without any timetables. The
bill passed the House on a 280 to 142 margin.
Ellison joined fellow
Minnesota freshman Democrat
Tim Walz in
George W. Bush
George W. Bush 's plan to increase troop levels in
On January 10, 2007, Bush announced his plans for the
Iraq War troop
surge of 2007 . The gist of this announcement had been known around
the Capitol for over a week, and when the
Associated Press asked
Ellison for his reaction to the idea on January 8, 2007, he stated
that it was "way too late, way too little.... So rather than do
something small and ineffective, why not get about the business of
what we're going to have to do eventually, which is to begin to end
the occupation?" Ellison called for an immediate withdrawal in Iraq:
"We could describe it as a redeployment or withdrawal, but I think we
have run the course in terms of our ability to resolve this conflict
militarily. I think we need to have a political and economic and
diplomatic engagement, and we need to encourage the forces that are in
Iraq to begin to resolve the violence in Iraq." When asked if he would
support Bush's call for an additional $100 billion to fund the wars in
Iraq and Afghanistan, Ellison said, "I want to see first, I want to
actually look at it, but I'm not inclined to continue to support a war
or an occupation that he has no plans to get us out of, and which is
so costly in terms of dollars and lives of American soldiers but also
White House , when asked for a reaction to the comments,
referred to a previous statement by press secretary
Tony Snow :
"Democrats will have to decide where they stand on two issues: 'No. 1,
do you want
Iraq to succeed, and, if so, what does that mean? And, No.
2, do you believe in supporting the troops as you say, and how do you
express that support?'"
Ellison has supported normalizing
Iran-United States relations and
reopening an interest section or embassy in Tehran; he was one of only
five Democrats in Congress who voted against the 2015 Iran Nuclear
Agreement Review Act . In a speech to the National Iranian American
Council , he said it does not make sense to cut off contact with the
Iranian government, because "when we put up an embassy or an interest
section in another country, it’s not a gift to them… You’re not
doing something for the other country by having someone to look after
our interests there, and by withdrawing it, it’s not a
On June 28, 2007, Ellison became a cosponsor of Rep. Dennis Kucinich
bill to impeach Vice President
Dick Cheney for "high crimes and
misdemeanors." Ellison's spokesperson, Rick Jauert, said the effort
was "largely to send a message" and that Ellison "has no illusions
that this is going anywhere and that's fine. We've got more important
things to do that affect people's daily lives. He basically signed on
out of principle, as an expression of the importance of the rule of
law — that nobody is above the law, not even the vice president."
On July 8, 2007, Ellison gave a speech in Edina,
Minnesota , where he
denounced Bush's commutation of
Lewis Libby 's sentence: "If Libby
gets pardoned , then he should not have the cover of the Fifth
Amendment . He's going to have to come clean and tell the truth. Now,
he could get Gonzales-itis , you know, with 71 lapses of memory within
a two-hour period ." He also criticized Bush's
White House Office of
Faith-Based and Community Initiatives saying, "This is basically the
Department of Religious Outreach.... It's essentially a
public-relations outreach arm for the Bush administration to reach out
to the far right of the evangelical
Christian movement. That's really
all it is."
On July 25, 2007, Ellison voted in the House Judiciary Committee to
issue citations of
Contempt of Congress to
White House Chief of Staff
Joshua Bolten and former
White House Counsel
Harriet Miers for
"failure to comply with subpoenas on the firings of several federal
Ellison has declared that he is open to demands to start an
impeachment process against
President Trump , saying "I think that
Donald Trump has already has done a number of things which
legitimately raise the question of impeachment."
Ellison issued a statement Friday March 21, 2008 that criticized the
Chinese government for its
Tibet policy and for its relationship with
Sudan's leaders 'as they commit genocide on the citizens of Darfur.'
Ellison was arrested along with seven other people including U.S.
Representatives James McGovern , John Lewis ,
Donna Edwards , Lynn
Woolsey for civil disobedience in April 2009 when they spoke at the
Sudanese Embassy in
Washington, D.C. to protest that the president of
Omar al-Bashir , had asked international aid groups bringing
food, health care and water, to leave
2016 U.S. PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION ENDORSEMENTS
Ellison was the second U.S. Representative (after
Raúl Grijalva ) to
Bernie Sanders for president in the 2016 Democratic primary .
Hillary Clinton after she secured the party's nomination.
In late March and early April 2007, Ellison was a member of a
congressional delegation on a "fact-finding trip to the Middle East."
The group included Representatives
Henry Waxman ,
Tom Lantos , Louise
Nick Rahall ,
Dave Hobson , who were led by Speaker Nancy
Pelosi . The delegation visited the
Church of the Holy Sepulchre
Church of the Holy Sepulchre and
Western Wall . Ellison called his visit to Islam's third-holiest
Al-Aqsa Mosque , as "personally moving". The group met
with Israeli Prime Minister
Ehud Olmert and discussed the peace plan
devised by the Saudis in 2002. The delegation also met with
Palestinian Authority President
Mahmoud Abbas .
The group's visit to
Syria was criticized by the Bush administration,
which restated its view that the United States should not have
diplomatic relations with state sponsors of terrorism. While there the
delegation conveyed a message from Olmert to Syrian President Bashar
Assad that "Israel is interested in peace if Damascus stops supporting
Lebanon the group met with Prime Minister Fouad
Siniora and Speaker
Nabih Berri . They also visited the grave of Rafik
Hariri and met with his son
Saad Hariri . In
Saudi Arabia , the group
spoke to King Abdullah and his
Shura Council of advisers. They
praised his peace plan and advocated a greater role for women in his
nation's political process. Ellison's inclusion in the delegation was
praised by council member Abdul-Rahman al-Zamel. Ellison called the
king a "visionary leader" and that "Even being in the same country
Medina are located was personally uplifting for me."
Ellison also said he hoped his presence as a
Muslim among the
delegation conveyed a message to the Israelis and Palestinians that
"people can come together. Reconciliation is possible."
On July 28 and 29, 2007, Ellison was among an "all-freshman
bipartisan congressional delegation" visiting Iraq, arranged by
Robert Gates and led by Rep.
Jerry McNerney . Before
the trip, Ellison told reporters that he would be stopping over in
Germany to visit wounded U.S. soldiers being treated there. He also
stated that he respected any politician who visited Iraq, making note
Tim Pawlenty who went in February
2007, along with five other Governors. Ellison said, "If this
country is going to ask these young people to stand in a war zone,
their political leadership should visit them." In
Iraq the delegation
met with Iraqi and U.S. military officials, including Gen. David
Israel And The Palestinian Territories
Soon after returning home from his trip to Iraq, Ellison joined with
19 other representatives on a week-long trip to Israel sponsored by
American Israel Education Foundation . House Majority Leader Steny
Hoyer led the group and personally invited Ellison to join them for a
stay from August 12–18, 2007. The group met with Israeli Prime
Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President
Mahmoud Abbas .
Ellison's spokesperson told reporters that the trip was "a natural
extension of his visit to Iraq" and that "the Middle East peace issue
is important to the diverse communities of his Minneapolis-area
district — from the
Jewish Community Relations Council to the
patrons of the Holy Land Middle Eastern eatery on Lake Street and
Central Avenue. He hears about it every time he goes back to his
district." The group traveled to
Tel Aviv , the northern
Galilee region, and
Ramallah , and viewed the Israeli border with
During this trip, Ellison stated that Israel did not permit him to
travel to Gaza , where a conflict was occurring. In a 2009 interview
Shihab Rattansi , Ellison expressed his disappointment
at his inability to see the humanitarian situation for himself. In the
same interview, he called for a more open discussion on Gaza, stating:
"The people who have a strong sympathy for the Israeli position...
dominate the conversation. And it’s really not politically safe to
say, look, there are two sides to this, and Israel has not been an
angel in this, and certainly there have been people on the Palestinian
side who have not contributed to a constructive solution."
Ellison holds up a
Qassam rocket fired at
During the Summer 2014 conflict between Hamas and Israel, Ellison
published an editorial in The
Washington Post that called for an end
to the blockade in Gaza. Citing his three trips to Gaza since 2009,
Ellison suggested that empowering Gazans by ending the blockade would
weaken extremists and help move towards final status peace.
Gaza And Sderot
On February 19, 2009, Ellison and fellow Representative Brian Baird
visited Gaza to view firsthand the destruction from the Gaza War and
to meet with international and local relief agencies, including the
United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the
Near East . This visit, which Ellison and Baird say did not have the
official sanction of the
Obama administration , was the first time any
U.S. government official had entered Gaza in more than three years.
Ellison had this to say about what he saw:
The stories about the children affected me the most. No parent, or
anyone who cares for kids, can remain unmoved by what Brian and I saw
The following day, Ellison and Baird visited the Israeli towns of
Ashkelon , which were the targets of numerous Qassam rocket
attacks, repeatedly launched from within the Gaza strip.
Ellison visited Norway in January 2008 because of Norway's prominent
role in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, and because of the
Norwegian-American heritage of many of his constituents. While there,
Ellison met with former Norwegian Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik
, then president of the
Oslo Center for Peace and Human Rights . The
Star Tribune reported that the "trip underscores Ellison's desire to
play a role in the international peace movement."
In mid-2008, Ellison joined a U.S. House Democracy Assistance
Commission delegation that traveled to six African countries,
Democratic Republic of the Congo
Democratic Republic of the Congo ,
Kenya . "The people of the 5th Congressional District
know that, in this globalized world, to have peace and security relies
on other people having a modicum of peace and security," Ellison said
upon returning. He attended a July 4 reception at the U.S. ambassador
's residence in Nairobi, Kenya, where Ellison met Sarah Hussein
Onyango Obama , the step-grandmother of then-presidential candidate
Barack Obama .
ADVOCACY FOR AMERICAN MUSLIMS
With his victory to the United States House of Representatives
Ellison became the first
Muslim elected to a position in the federal
government and the highest
Muslim elected official in the United
States, with Congressman
André Carson elected in 2008, as the only
Muslim serving in the U.S. Congress. Ellison’s election has
been seen as inspirational to American Muslims, and he encourages
civic empowerment through participation in the political process.
Ellison generally "downplayed the role of religion in his drive for
office," but he has become active in advocacy for
civic engagement and civil rights causes on a national level since.
NORTH AMERICAN IMAMS FEDERATION
Ellison in 2010
On November 18, 2006, Ellison gave a speech called "Imams and
Politics" to the Fourth Annual Body Meeting of the North American
Imams Federation . The Federation's materials presented the issues to
be outlined in Ellison's speech as follows: "Many Muslims around the
United States are involved in political activities at different
levels. Recognizing the sensitivity of political issues and the
potential for divisiveness within the communities as a result of
divergent political views, Imams must be able to provide Muslims with
the proper guidance and educate them on the etiquettes of any
political involvement within the Islamic context. Questions also arise
on whether Imams and Islamic centers should be involved in politics at
all and what the extent of this involvement should be, therefore Imams
should have the ability to address these concerns. Overall, it is
important that Imams are aware and understand the general political
climate of their communities and be especially conversant with the
issues that affect Muslims." Ellison also took part in "Community
Siraj Wahhaj , and
Omar Shahin . This was
"for Imams to meet and interact with community members." Some of the
participants of this meeting became involved in the Flying Imams
controversy after being removed from an Arizona bound plane for
"concerning behavior". Ellison became involved in this controversy
shortly after it erupted when he attempted to arrange a meeting
between parties including
US Airways executives, the Metropolitan
Airports Commission , and other legislators and community members.
MOSES INTERFAITH GROUP
Congressman Ellison meets with the
Tibet Leader 14th Dalai Lama
in Minneapolis, MN in 2011
On December 27, 2006, Ellison spoke at a meeting in Holy Redeemer
Catholic Church in
Detroit for Metropolitan Organizing Strategy
Enabling Strength (MOSES). The meeting was with leaders from the
Catholic , Muslim, and
Arab-American communities, along with members
of the organized labor movement. He told those in attendance that the
Islam guide his life, but he has no intention of
imposing his faith on others, "I'm not a religious leader, I've never
led religious services of any kind. I'm not here to be a preacher, but
in terms of political agenda items, my faith informs me." He
Qur'an Oath controversy of the 110th United States
Congress and said that he hoped religion could be a uniting, rather
than a dividing force: "They've never actually tried to explore how
religion should connect us, they're into how religion divides us. ...
They haven't really explored ... how my faith connects me to you."
PROMOTING U.S. WITH THE STATE DEPARTMENT
Minnesota Disabled Veterans
Two months after taking office, Ellison met with Secretary of State
Condoleezza Rice and other top State Department officials to talk
about "showcasing his story as part of their public diplomacy efforts
Muslim world." According to the
Star Tribune , Ellison was
"profiled three times by the State Department’s overseas press
bureau." He also "did a
Voice of America
Voice of America interview from his office,
where an American flag was placed conspicuously behind his desk for
the cameras." In the interview which was set to play in the Middle
East and South Asia, Ellison stressed global inclusiveness and quoted
verse 49:13 of the
Qur'an "Oh humanity, We created you from a single
pair..." Ellison also accepted the Bush administration's request to be
part of a "teleconference with
Karen Hughes , the State Department's
undersecretary for public diplomacy. The
White House has asked that
the teleconference promote American values and confront ideological
support for terrorism around the world." The Voice of America
applauded Ellison's cooperation saying "He is the most famous freshman
congressman in the world."
After he took his oath of office he was surrounded by the foreign
press, intrigued in part by the oath controversy, who "had to be
ushered out of his office after he took his oath to make room for
home-state news crews." Ellison has been "featured in a series of
articles written for foreign dissemination by the Department's Bureau
of International Information Programs." Including an article that was
translated into Persian and Arabic that "highlighted the diversity of
his constituents in Minnesota, ranging from Swedes and Norwegians to
'the largest Somali immigrant community in America.'" In his work in
cooperation with the state department, Ellison stresses the religious
freedom available in the US, saying things like "religious tolerance
has a much longer pedigree in America than some of the intolerance
we've seen lately." Even in his work with the State Department he
remained critical of President Bush's
Iraq policy saying "he wants
people around the world to know that 'there are many Americans who
want to relate to the rest of the world in terms of cooperation, not
military domination.'" Ellison staffers told reporters that "the State
Department has shown no signs of squeamishness about publicizing his
criticism of the war." When asked about working with elements of the
Bush administration Ellison said "Hey, my country first. We can work
out our political differences later. I've said I'm willing to do
whatever I can to make some friends for America."
ISSUES AND CONTROVERSIES
QUR\'AN OATH OF OFFICE
Main article: Qur\'an oath controversy of the 110th United States
Nancy Pelosi (left) swearing in Ellison (right)
Thomas Jefferson 's Qur\'an
After Ellison stated his intention to use the Qur\'an instead of a
Bible at the photo-op reenactment of his swearing-in ceremony (the
official ceremony is done en masse without any books), Conservative
Dennis Prager wrote a column criticizing that decision, and
other conservatives also attacked Ellison for it. The American Family
Association called upon its members to push for a "a law making the
Bible the book used in the swearing-in ceremony of Representatives and
Senators." Ellison's right to use a
Qur'an in the ceremony was
defended by legal scholars, who referred to the No Religious Test
Clause of the
U.S. Constitution ; by
Anti-Defamation League (who
termed Prager's view "intolerant, misinformed and downright
un-American"), and by the
Becket Fund for Religious Liberty .
Virgil Goode of Virginia, responding to "scores and
hundreds of emails" from his constituents after the Prager article,
said that Ellison's decision to use the
Qur'an was a threat to "the
values and beliefs traditional to the United States of America". He
also wrote, "...if American citizens don’t wake up and adopt the
Virgil Goode position on immigration there will likely be many more
Muslims elected to office and demanding the use of the Qur\'an ."
On the opening day of Congress, Ellison met Goode on the House floor
to shake hands and Goode accepted an offer to talk over coffee. That
same day, during his oath reenactment, Ellison used a two-volume
Qur'an once owned by
Thomas Jefferson , borrowed from the rare book
and special collections division of the
Library of Congress
Library of Congress .
Ellison said that the use of the Jefferson
Qur'an demonstrated "that
from the very beginning of our country, we had people who were
visionary, who were religiously tolerant, who believed that knowledge
and wisdom could be gleaned from any number of sources, including the
Qur'an." Historian Kevin J. Hayes, in his article How Thomas
Jefferson Read the Qur'an, explained that Jefferson purchased the book
in 1765 while studying for the bar exam to become a lawyer.
Barack Obama , in his "
A New Beginning " address to nations
with a majority-
Muslim population made in
Egypt on June 4,
2009, cited this event as an example of the continual positive impact
he believes Muslims have had on America, saying, "And when the first
Muslim-American was recently elected to Congress, he took the oath to
defend our Constitution using the same Holy
Qur'an that one of our
Founding Fathers—Thomas Jefferson—kept in his personal library."
INTERVIEW WITH GLENN BECK
On November 14, 2006,
Glenn Beck of
CNN Headline News
CNN Headline News said to
Ellison, "I have been nervous about this interview with you, because
what I feel like saying is, 'Sir, prove to me that you are not working
with our enemies.' And I know you're not. I'm not accusing you of
being an enemy, but that's the way I feel, and I think a lot of
Americans will feel that way." Ellison replied that his constituents,
"know that I have a deep love and affection for my country. There's no
one who's more patriotic than I am, and so you know, I don't need to
— need to prove my patriotic stripes."
When asked by Beck for his opinion on "
Muslim extremists", Ellison
replied, "They're criminals. But I think that people who commit
criminal acts should be treated like criminals, regardless of their
faith." Ellison has also said, "
Osama bin Laden no more represents
Timothy McVeigh represented
Christianity ." Asked about
the incident later, Ellison dismissed it, saying, "It's just shock TV.
Some pundits think they have to ask the most outrageous questions."
On January 2, 2007, Beck said on his radio program that Ellison did
not take offense at the comments and the two had a friendly chat off
the air. On January 9, 2007, at the Television Critics Association's
semiannual press tour, Beck said it was "Quite possibly the
poorest-worded question of all time." He clarified by saying, "My
point to Keith Ellison... is the same point that I make to my own
faith, and that is — you must stand up before things get out of
control ... And it's important for people of all faiths, when someone
is hijacking their religion, to stand and say, 'That is not what we
do. That is not who we are."'
LOUIS FARRAKHAN AND HISTORY WITH THE NATION OF ISLAM
As a law student in 1989 and 1990, Ellison wrote several columns
under the name "Keith E. Hakim" in the student newspaper, the
Minnesota Daily . He defended Farrakhan against claims of racism, and
further wrote that Farrakhan "is also not an anti-Semite" and called
affirmative action a "sneaky" form of compensation for slavery,
suggesting that white Americans instead pay reparations to blacks.
Mother Jones reported that, under the name "Keith X Ellison," he wrote
defenses of Farrakhan against accusations of anti-semitism after the
1995 Million Man March, and again in 1997.
Denunciation Of The Nation Of
Islam In 2006
During Ellison's 2006 campaign, Republican blogger
unearthed posts about Ellison's
Minnesota Daily articles and his
involvement with the Nation of
Islam . In response, Ellison wrote a
letter to the
Jewish Community Relations Council of
Ellison responded that he had fully disclosed all contributions and
said that he had "nothing to hide". Ellison stressed that he was
supported by individuals, and that the non-profit organization itself
did not endorse his candidacy.
His Republican opponent in the race, Alan Fine, criticized Ellison
for accepting these contributions, saying that CAIR was "a group that
Democrats say has deep ties to terrorism". In response to Ellison's
opponents, CAIR leaders Parvez Ahmed and
Nihad Awad wrote, "We are
proud of our personal donations to Ellison's campaign" and derided any
'guilt by association' arguments.
CAMPAIGN FINANCE VIOLATIONS
In early 2006, the
Minnesota State Campaign Finance and Public
Disclosure Board reprimanded Ellison for unreported campaign
contributions, discrepancies in cash balances, and misclassified
disbursements during his campaigns for the
Minnesota House of
Representatives. These transgressions occurred in the years 2002–04.
In 2005, the board opened an investigation, and Ellison was subpoenaed
Ellison was repeatedly fined for late filings, was sued twice by the
Attorney General of
Minnesota , and was warned about absent or
REICHSTAG FIRE AND 9/11
On July 8, 2007, Ellison discussed the power of the executive branch
in a speech before the organization Atheists for Human Rights. He
Dick Cheney said it was "beneath his dignity in order for
him to answer any questions from the citizens of the United States.
That is the very definition of totalitarianism , authoritarianism and
dictatorship ." He went on to say, "It's almost like the Reichstag
fire , kind of reminds me of that. After the Reichstag was burned,
they blamed the
Communists for it and it put the leader of that
country, Hitler , in a position where he could basically have
authority to do whatever he wanted. The fact is that I'm not saying
September 11 was a U.S. plan or anything like that because, you know,
that's how they put you in the nut-ball box — dismiss you."
Fox News picked up the story and their commentator John Gibson
categorized Ellison's comments as accusing "Bush of planning and
executing the 9/11 attacks". In Congress, Representatives Eric Cantor
Zach Wamp wrote House Speaker
Nancy Pelosi demanding she "swiftly
and immediately" reprimand Ellison for his remarks. The letter said,
"Even if Ellison asserts that he was not implying that 9/11 was
orchestrated by the administration, the comparison he draws between
Hitler and the President of United States is disgraceful. These
comments inflame hatred and division at a time when we should be
promoting our unity and reconciliation." The Anti-Defamation League
also stated "Whatever his views may be on the administration's
response to 9/11 and the conduct of the war on terrorism , likening it
to Hitler's rise to power and
Nazism is odious and demeans the victims
of 9/11 and the brave American men and women engaged in the war on
terror . Furthermore, it demonstrates a profound lack of understanding
about the horrors that Hitler and his Nazi regime perpetrated."
When later questioned about his comments, Ellison told a reporter
that Osama bin Laden, and not the Bush administration, was responsible
for the attacks. Ellison also said, "In the aftermath of a tragedy,
space is opened up for governments to take action that they could not
have achieved before that." He pointed to the
Iraq War and provisions
granting greater arrest and surveillance powers within the USA PATRIOT
Act as examples. Ellison also said:
In response to a question, I stated that the Bush Administration
exploited post-9/11 fears to advance a policy agenda that has
undermined our civil liberties. I stand by this statement. ...I want
to be clear that the murderous Nazi regime is historically distinct
and the horror of the
Holocaust must be acknowledged as a unique event
in human history. I did not intend any direct comparison between the
totalitarian state of Nazi Germany and the current administration. I
have taken consistent and strong stands against
throughout my life in public service."
Ellison speaking in 2016
Bill Sali of Idaho drew criticism for his comments in
an August 8, 2007 interview with the conservative
American Family News Network. Sali, an outspoken Evangelical Christian
, denounced the Senate leadership for allowing a
Hindu to lead the
opening prayer, claiming that the non-
Christian invocation threatened
to endanger America by removing "the protective hand of God."
Former Democratic Idaho Congressman Richard Stallings , among others,
demanded that Sali either apologize or resign. In response Sali sent
Ellison an email saying he "meant no offense." Ellison was in Iraq
with a congressional delegation, but his spokesperson, Micah Clemens,
said, "The congressman just doesn't respond to comments like that." A
New York Sun
New York Sun editorial wrote that claims that the founders did not
Muslim legislators are incorrect. The specific subject was
brought up in several state conventions to ratify the Constitution ,
including by William Lancaster during
North Carolina 's 1788
Hillsborough Convention .
Ellison was chosen by the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee
for its Trailblazer Award. He was named an
Utne Reader visionary in
Ellison's book, My Country 'Tis of Thee, was published in 2014.
MINNESOTA HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
Minnesota House of Representatives - District 58B, 2002
Duane K. Reed
Bonnie J. Smith
Jay Ceril Mastrud
Minnesota House of Representatives - District 58B, 2004
Jay Ceril Mastrud
US HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
Minnesota 5th congressional district election, 2006
Minnesota 5th congressional district election, 2008
Barb Davis White
Minnesota 5th congressional district election, 2010
Minnesota 5th congressional district election, 2012
Minnesota 5th congressional district election, 2014
Minnesota 5th congressional district election, 2016
List of African-American United States Representatives
* United States congressional delegations from
* List of United States Representatives from
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Atlanta on Saturday, the restive mood of liberal activists has buoyed
a pair of insurgents, Representative
Keith Ellison of
Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind., against the perceived
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anti-Semitic figures". CNN. Retrieved December 2, 2016. Ellison wrote
other columns in law school defending Farrakhan against charges of
Jeff Ballabon (November 21, 2016). "
Keith Ellison Supported the
BDS Movement and Admired Louis Farrakhan.". Tablet . Retrieved
November 22, 2016.
* ^ A B C D E Cooperman, Alan (September 11, 2006). "Muslim
Candidate Plays Defense". The Washington Post. p. A03. Retrieved
September 11, 2006.
* ^ "
Minnesota Daily archive". Mndaily.com. Retrieved November 3,
* ^ "
Minnesota Daily archive". Mndaily.com. Retrieved November 3,
* ^ TIM MURPHY. "
Keith Ellison Is Everything Republicans Thought
Obama Was. Maybe He\'s Just What Democrats Need". Mother Jones
(Mar/Apr 2017). Retrieved February 8, 2017. Under the byline Keith X
Ellison, months after the march that he described as an epiphany, he
penned an op-ed in the Twin Cities black weekly Insight News, pushing
back against charges of anti-Semitism directed at Farrakhan. In 1997,
nearly two years later, he endorsed a statement again defending
* ^ Scott W. Johnson (October 9, 2006). "Louis Farrakhan\'s First
Congressman". The Weekly Standard. News America Incorporated.
Retrieved November 13, 2006.
* ^ Diaz, Daniella (December 1, 2016). "
Keith Ellison defends
comments about Middle East in open letter to ADL". CNN. Retrieved
December 2, 2016. CNN's K
File reviewed Ellison's past writings and
public statements during the late 1980s through the 1990s, which
revealed his decade-long involvement in the Nation of Islam.
* ^ "Candidate finds past ties a real bind". Chicago Tribune. June
30, 2006. p. 7.
* ^ Lee Hudson Teslik (September 13, 2006). "A
Muslim for the
Hill?". Newsweek. Archived from the original on January 4, 2007.
Retrieved January 3, 2007.
* ^ Rochelle Olson (October 24, 2006). "Minnesotan campaigns to be
Muslim elected to Congress". McClatchy Newspapers. Retrieved
January 3, 2007.
* ^ "GOP's attack on Ellison focuses on U.S. Muslim". Minneapolis
Star and Tribune. September 17, 2006.
* ^ Brandt Williams (October 18, 2006). "Sparks fly at 5th District
Minnesota Public Radio.
* ^ Rochelle, Olson (October 11, 2006). "Lee posts photo with Sabo;
Fine ad attacks Ellison". Star Tribune. Archived from the original on
October 23, 2007. Retrieved November 4, 2006. At the same time,
Republican Alan Fine on Thursday pressed on with attacks against
Ellison, sending a mailing to 100,000 voters criticizing Ellison for
accepting campaign contributions from leaders of the Council for
American Islamic Relations (CAIR).
* ^ "Parvez Ahmed and Nihad Awad: Reject the political
Muslim-bashing smears". Star Tribune. October 20, 2006. Retrieved
November 4, 2006. There has been much sound and fury in certain
circles about the American
Muslim community's support for Keith
Ellison and his campaign to represent Minnesota's Fifth Congressional
* ^ "Findings and Order in the Matter of the Committee to Ellect
Keith Ellison" (PDF). Retrieved November 3, 2010.
* ^ "Campaign Finance and Disclosure Board Conciliation Agreement"
(PDF). Retrieved November 3, 2010.
* ^ "Compilation of Board Minutes in which Ellison was fined".
Cfbreport.state.mn.us. Retrieved November 3, 2010.
* ^ Lopez, Patricia; Mike Kaszuba (July 15, 2006). "Late campaign
reports were her doing, Ellison's wife says". Star Tribune.
access-date= requires url= (help )
* ^ Smith, Dane; Pat Doyle (July 8, 2006). "Late filings a pattern
for Ellison". Star Tribune. p. 18. access-date= requires url= (help
* ^ A B Harnden, Toby (July 14, 2007). "Bush like Hitler, says
Muslim in Congress". The Daily Telegraph.
* ^ Hume, Brit (July 12, 2007). "Wait Until You Hear Who’s
Comparing the Bush Administration to Nazi Germany".
Fox News Channel.
* ^ John Gibson (July 16, 2007). "What I Think About Rep. Keith
Ellison Comparing Bush to Hitler".
Fox News Channel.
* ^ A B C D Sherman, Jake (July 17, 2007). "Ellison\'s remarks draw
fresh complaints". Star Tribune.
* ^ Jackie Kucinich (July 18, 2007). "Reps. Cantor, Wamp blast
Ellison for 9/11 comments". The Hill.
* ^ Kersten, Katherine (July 12, 2007). "Ellison's use of Reichstag
fire goes overboard".
Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN).
* ^ "Ellison cites Reichstag burning in attacking Bush policies".
July 13, 2007.
* ^ Jim Brown (August 8, 2007). "Idaho congressman disturbed by
Hindu prayer in Senate, election of
Muslim to House". OneNewsNow.com.
Archived from the original on August 22, 2007.
* ^ Dvorak, Todd (August 18, 2007). "Lawmaker Apologizes for Muslim
Remarks". Associated Press. Archived from the original on September
* ^ A B "Binding Ellison".
New York Sun
New York Sun Editorial. December 6,
* ^ "Debate in
North Carolina Ratifying Convention; 30 July 1788".
* ^ Niraj Warikoo (May 17, 2007). "
Arab-American group to award
Rep. Keith Ellison".
* ^ "Representative Keith Ellison:
Muslim Patriot". Utne Reader.
November–December 2011. Retrieved October 19, 2011.
* ^ "An excerpt from Keith Ellison\'s "My Country \'Tis of Thee\'".
* ^ "2002 General Election Results –
Minnesota Secretary of
State". May 23, 2003. Archived from the original on September 24,
2006. Retrieved December 14, 2006.
* ^ "Election results: Minnesota: State Legislative". Minnesota
Public Radio. 2004. Retrieved December 16, 2006.
* ^ "2012 General Election Results –
Minnesota Secretary of
State". November 6, 2012. Archived from the original on November 6,
2012. Retrieved November 9, 2012.
* ^ "Ballotpedia: Minnesota\'s 5th Congressional District
elections, 2014". Retrieved October 12, 2014.
* ^ "
Minnesota U.S. House 5th District Results: Keith Ellison
Wins". The New York Times. November 13, 2016. Retrieved November 13,
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