Muslim’s Election Is Celebrated Here and in Mideast

November 10, 2006

Author: Neil MacFarquhar

Source: The New York Times

Keith Ellison wore his religion lightly on the campaign trail, mentioning it only when asked.

Keith Ellison, speaking in Minneapolis, said Thursday that he would serve “from a standpoint of improving the quality of civil and human rights for all people in America.” Mr. Ellison celebrated with his wife, Kim. But Muslims across America, and even overseas, celebrated his election Tuesday as the first Muslim in Congress, representing Minnesota’s Fifth District in the House of Representatives, as a sign of acceptance and a welcome antidote to their faith’s sinister image.

“It’s a step forward; it gives the Muslims a little bit of a sense of belonging,” said Osama A. Siblani, the publisher of The Arab American News, a weekly in Dearborn, Mich., a state with one of the heaviest concentrations of Muslims. “It is also a signal to the rest of the world that America has nothing against Muslims. If we did, he wouldn’t have been elected.”

Mr. Ellison’s success was front-page news in several of the Arab world’s largest newspapers and high in the lineup on television news programs.

Few of his supporters expect Mr. Ellison, a 43-year-old criminal defense lawyer who converted to Islam as a 19-year-old college student, to effect any policy shifts in areas of concern to Muslim Americans, particularly when it comes to foreign policy and civil rights.