As the first Muslim elected to Congress, Rep. Keith Ellison(D-Minn.) is often a go-to person for Muslim Americans, Muslim leaders overseas and others focused on the intersection of Islam and government. He has served on the Foreign Affairs Committee and the House Democracy Partnership, which works with lawmakers in emerging democracies. Washington Post religion reporter Michelle Boorstein asked Ellison about some of the Islam-related stories in the news.
Q: How has the post-Sept. 11 decade changed these views?
A: The people I talk to are as concerned about anti-Muslim hate as much as ever before. One thing they commonly complain about is, if you make a slur against blacks you’ll be in trouble. But if you say some crazy stuff about Muslims no one cares. I think it’s actually gotten worse. I think in 2001 we were in a better place than we are now. Then, there were people who didn’t like Muslims, but now there is an industry to pump out negativity. You have [Republican congresswoman] Michele Bachmann [of Minnesota] going around saying the Muslim Brotherhood has infiltrated the government. You can count on something like this every two months.
●Serves on the House Financial Services Committee; House Democratic Steering & Policy Committee.
●Co-chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus for the 112th Congress; is a member of the Congressional Black Caucus.
●Before Congress: practiced law and was a community activist; also served two terms in the Minnesota State House of Representatives.
● Hometown: Detroit.
● Earned a law degree from the University of Minnesota Law School in 1990.
●Is the father of four children.