Friday, January 05, 2007

Ellison and Goode shake hands

Muslim Congressman embraces staunch critic
January 4, 2007
By Niraj Warikoo
Free Press Staff Writer

Amid intense scrutiny, Detroit native Keith Ellison became the first Muslim to serve in the U.S. Congress and reached out to the Congressman that only weeks ago lambasted him for choosing to use the Quran in his swearing-in ceremony.

On the House floor, a smiling Ellison walked over to U.S. Rep. Virgil Goode, a Virginia Republican who criticized Ellison in a sharp letter last month that warned of Muslims being elected to office, and shook Goode's hand, according to the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which saw the account on a MSNBC video clip posted on

Meanwhile, local leaders praised Ellison on Thursday. "I would like to extend a warm welcome to Congressman Keith Ellison," U.S. Rep. John Dingell (D-Dearborn), whose district has one of the biggest Muslim communities in the U.S., said in a statement. "Being the first Muslim-American to serve is quite a distinction and he will be a good addition to the House membership. The institution will be stronger having him and his voice in the 110th Congress."

Ellison, who converted to Islam while in college, swore today on a Quran once owned by Thomas Jefferson in an individual ceremony. He had been criticized by some for that.

But Jewish leaders in Michigan defended Ellison's religious rights.In a news release issued Thursday, the Jewish Community Council of Metropolitan Detroit said it "strongly condemns the criticism of congressman-elect Keith Ellison's decision to use the Koran as he takes his oath to become a United States Representative." The group said that "ours is a nation founded on the principle of religious freedom. The U.S. Constitution prohibits religious tests for office, and the First Amendment adds both a freedom from religious establishment and a freedom of religious exercise... Denying Mr. Ellison his right to choose which scripture to use would not only affront Muslims, but undermine the rights of all Americans."

Dawud Walid, head of the Michigan branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, praised Ellison for reaching out to Goode. "We hope that through their handshake, there can be greater sensitivity to different races and religions within Congress ," Walid said.

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