According to a (subscriber’s-only) article in Insight, the sensationalist newsweekly put out by the right-wing Washington Times, “both Democratic and Republican” members of Congress, unnamed in the story, “have been worried” that Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minnesota) “would become the strongest advocate of extreme Islam in Congress.”
“He is a pleasant man, but his advocacy of the Saudi agenda is very worrisome,” a senior House aide said. “This feeling represents numerous Democrats.”
Ellison, the first Muslim in Congress, has been a target of the far Right since his election last November. Talk show host Dennis Prager said he “should not be allowed” to pose with Koran after his swearing in, a sentiment echoed by self-described “defender of religious freedom” Jay Sekulow, and former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore—who was removed from the bench for refusing an order to move a two-ton Ten Commandments monument from his courthouse—wrote that Muslims like Ellison are not fit for office. Rep. Virgil Goode (R-Virginia) warned his constituents that “if American citizens don’t wake up and adopt the Virgil Goode position on immigration there will likely be many more Muslims elected to office and demanding the use of the Koran.” Meanwhile, other right-wing commentators have attempted to link Ellison to American Muslim groups they purport to be somehow associated with terrorism.
Insight, citing anonymous “congressional sources,” claims that “no Democrat has gone public in fear of a Saudi-financed Muslim backlash, particularly by Ellison’s biggest supporter, the Council on American-Islamic Relations.”
As an example of Ellison’s supposed “close ties to Islamic fundamentalists,” the Insight article refers to a visit by Ellison and other members of Congress to Iraq, during which he met with U.S. military leaders and Iraqi leaders seeking his help in “countering al-Qaeda’s vision of Islam.” USA Today noted that Ellison was “already helping a State Department outreach effort aimed at improving the image of the U.S. in the Muslim world.” In Insight’s telling, those details get lost and the trip takes a menacing aspect:
Ellison’s close ties to Islamic fundamentalists have sparked greater concern. In late July, Ellison toured Iraq and met Sunni clerics in Ramadi who sought his help in improving Islam’s image in the United States. Ramadi has been regarded as being heavily influenced by al Qaeda.
“They were very upset and concerned that al Qaeda is misrepresenting Islam,” Ellison said on July 30. “And they were talking to me about what I can possibly do to work with them to give a clearer, more accurate picture of what Islam is all about.”