CAIR: TWIN CITIES CONGRESSMAN MAKES PILGRIMAGE TO MECCA - TOP
Rep. Keith Ellison had planned the trip long before the lame-duck session was called to consider a bailout for U.S. automakers.
Mitch Anderson, Star Tribune, 12/15/08
Back home he's one of the 535 most powerful lawmakers in America, but last week, on the holiest week in Islam's holiest city, U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison was just one among the estimated 3 million travelers making the pilgrimage to Mecca.
"You forget who you are - black or white and American or African - and where you come from when you are before God circling the Kabba [the large masonry cubic structure near Mecca] in a two-piece unstitched garment," Ellison said in a CNN interview last week.
Continuing in his unofficial role as America's goodwill ambassador to the Middle East, Ellison, the first Muslim elected to the U.S. Congress also became the first sitting member to make the religious journey that all able-bodied Muslims are obligated to make once in their lifetime, otherwise known as Hajj. . .
Though he didn't embark to much fanfare, Ellison's travels didn't escape the attention of those back in the states.
"For our relations with the Muslim world, it can only help to see an American congressman going on Hajj and mingling with the millions of Muslims from all parts of the world in Mecca," said Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations. "And from a domestic perspective, it sends a really positive message of religious diversity and inclusion in our society." (MORE)
Rep. Keith Ellison
Last update: December 15, 2008 - 9:51 PM
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Back home, he's one of the 535 most powerful lawmakers in America, but last week, on the holiest week in Islam's holiest city, U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison was just one among the estimated 3 million travelers making the pilgrimage to Mecca.
Ellison, D-Minn., and the first Muslim elected to Congress, also became the first sitting member to make the hajj, the journey that all able-bodied Muslims are obligated to make once in their lifetime.
Ellison had been planning the weeklong pilgrimage since a trip to Saudi Arabia almost a year ago, said his spokesman, Rick Jauert, and hadn't expected the lame-duck session and contentious battle taking shape in Congress over whether to provide financial aid to U.S. carmakers.
"The plans were made not anticipating there would be a lame-duck session at all, and if there was, it wouldn't be this late," Jauert said. "He had let the speaker and majority leader know that he was going, and they were OK with that. If they knew they were going to bring up something on which his vote was essential, he probably wouldn't have gone."
Jauert said Ellison was accompanied by fellow members of his Minneapolis mosque, although his wife, a Catholic, and his two sons stayed home. "It was a personal trip, a pilgrimage," Jauert said, noting that Ellison paid for the journey himself.