Muslim Could Be a 1st in Congress

October 23, 2006

Author: Joseph Williams

Source: The Boston Globe

While there is no such thing as a sure thing in politics, congressional candidate Keith Ellison is a good bet to join the freshman class of 2006 in the US House of Representatives.

If he does, Ellison, who is the Democratic nominee in an overwhelmingly Democratic district, will take the oath of office with his hand on the Koran and not the Bible -- the first Muslim in American history to be elected to Congress.

Though he publicly downplays his faith, it helped boost Ellison past two local party heavyweights to capture the nomination. In the primary, his campaign triggered a record turnout among Minneapolis's largely Muslim Somali community.

The district, which has a long history of voting Democratic, is made up of middle-income whites, middle- to working-income blacks, and immigrants.

Now, Ellison, 42, is poised to arrive in Washington at a time of acute tension between Muslims and the US government over treatment of Muslims at home and abroad. His Republican opponent, Alan Fine, backed by conservative bloggers across the country, charges that Ellison's past association with the Nation of Islam -- and support he has received from another group that some say is affiliated with terrorist organizations -- should raise red flags for voters.