As a U.S. representative, Keith Ellison's primary responsibility is to represent his constituents in Minnesota's Fifth Congressional District.
The first Muslim elected to Congress, Ellison, a Democrat, also seems to feel an obligation to be the voice of Muslim Americans in Washington.
That alone would not be an issue. But in his two terms, he has established a disturbing record of promoting and defending radical Islamists who hide beneath a veneer of moderation.
In 2009, Ellison spoke at three fundraising dinners for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and provided videotaped remarks at others, including the CAIR-Sacramento Valley dinner last weekend. He also appeared with CAIR officials at events on healthcare reform and celebrating the Muslim Eid holiday.
Last month, Ellison took to the House floor to rebuke four colleagues who called for an investigation of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and whether it was targeting offices tied to committees on the judiciary, homeland security and intelligence to place interns.
According to the book "Muslim Mafia," internal CAIR records show the group sought to infiltrate those congressional offices.
"These charges smack of an America 60 years ago where lists of 'un-American' agitators were identified," Ellison said in his floor remarks. "The idea that we should investigate Muslim interns as spies is a blow to the very principle of religious freedom that our Founding Fathers cherished so dearly. If anything, we should be encouraging all Americans to take part in the U.S. political process."
The four Republican officials never asked that Muslim interns be investigated. Their concern focused solely on CAIR and cited internal CAIR documents published in the book.
CAIR deserves special scrutiny because it was founded by members of a U.S.-based Hamas support network created by the Muslim Brotherhood.
The Brotherhood is an Egyptian religious/political movement which aims to spread Islamic law throughout the world. The Hamas support by CAIR founders documented in the terror-financing trial of the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development prompted the FBI to cut off communications with CAIR in 2008. CAIR's access reportedly could be restored if it pledged not to support Hamas. CAIR officials have rejected that pledge.
Two weeks before defending CAIR on the House floor, Ellison engaged in a brief debate with M. Zuhdi Jasser, founder and president of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy. Jasser, a former Navy physician, challenges the insidious threat from political Islam and is a staunch advocate of separating "mosque and state."
Ellison responded to this message by saying blacks are "familiar with people who would seek to ingratiate themselves with powerful people in the white community and would there turn them on the rest of us and give license to attack us all.
"Arguing 'African-Americans are criminally inclined, they're all in gangs, they're all on welfare.' Black people who say stuff like this. But what they're really trying to do is win themselves individual benefit at the expense of everyone else."
"I don't know you well enough to know that's what you're doing," Ellison told Jasser. "But I must admit that when I heard you speaking, that's what I thought of."
Muslims must "stand against" extremist members of their faith, Ellison said. But he seemed more threatened by Jasser. "Now is somebody going to snatch my 13-year-old daughter's hijab off, call her a horrible name, spit on her because of something that you said, Dr. Jasser, I worry about that," he added. Read more about it and watch the video here.
Ellison also wants to be regarded as a statesman and an advocate of inter-religious cooperation and peace. When he addressed the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) on Oct. 15, he denounced Muslim Brotherhood luminary Sayyid Qutb, whom he described as one of a number of "theorists" who "are responsible for what we would regard today as violent extremism with what I call a Muslim veneer."
In the same speech, however, Ellison praised one very questionable Islamist role model: Hamza Yusuf, president and chairman of the Zaytuna Institute in California. Ellison described Yusuf as one of several "respected religious authorities who converted to Islam." But Yusuf has a long record of anti-Jewish rabble-rousing and other extremist statements. In a 1995 videotape, Yusuf called Judaism a "most racist religion."
On Sept. 9, 2001, Yusuf spoke at a fundraiser at the University of California-Irvine for Jamal Al-Amin, then-accused of murdering a Fulton County, Ga. sheriff's deputy and wounding his partner.
Al-Amin would be convicted in 2002. Speaking just two days before the Sept. 11 attacks, Yusuf warned: "We saw the destruction of Russia after its invasion of Afghanistan, This country [America] unfortunately has a great . . . tribulation coming to it. And much of it is already here, yet people are too illiterate to read the writing on the wall."
Ellison went on to describe himself as a "supporter" of Israel, which he described as "an important country, our ally."
But Ellison has also received plaudits from the virulently anti-Israel Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, which publishes hateful stories like this conspiracy theory of an international Jewish organ theft program. Ellison was one of only 33 House members who earned a spot in the Washington Report's "Hall of Fame," supporting the magazine's position on all eight issues polled during the 110th Congress. The issues ranged from opposing sanctions against Iran to calling on the U.S. government to press Israel and Hamas for a Gaza ceasefire.
In his USIP speech, Ellison designated himself pro-Israel to make a segue to a larger point - to urge support for a questionable report from a United Nations "fact-finding" mission on the war this past winter between Israel and Hamas. As careful analysts have pointed out, the mission, headed by South African jurist Richard Goldstone, was skewed from the start against Israel and in favor of Hamas.
The United Nations Human Rights Council resolution which established the Goldstone mission prejudged Israel's guilt and denounced its behavior while omitting criticism of Hamas. The resolution asserted that Israel's military operation in Gaza "resulted in massive violations of the human rights of the Palestinian people." The resolution called on the Goldstone mission to investigate Israel's conduct in Gaza but not that of Hamas.
Earlier this month, Ellison backed up his words by joining the losing side of a 344-36 House vote in favor of a resolution calling on the President and Secretary of State to oppose any endorsement of the report.
Jonathan Halevi, a research fellow with the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, and others have documented in great detail how Goldstone and Company misrepresented the facts in attacking Israel's conduct of the war while ignoring the fact that Hamas and other Gaza-based terror groups engaged in war crimes by using civilians as human shields.
But Ellison said it was "unfortunate" to hear reports that the Obama Administration had tried to persuade the Palestinian Authority not to press for a United Nations Security Council debate on the Goldstone report. Israel, Ellison suggested at one point, needn't fear Goldstone because he calls himself "a Zionist Jew."
"I also know that the United States has seen Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, Jim Crow, all types of problems," Ellison told USIP. "Don't be afraid of a report that might reflect something unflattering about our ally. It won't hurt them. It may strengthen them."
It would be difficult to imagine a more false, disingenuous formulation.
First, it is slanderous to liken Israel's efforts to defend its civilian population from terrorist attack to a genuine moral evil like segregation in the South. Second, the Goldstone mission and the one-sided report it produced weren't authorized by the United Nations Human Rights Council in order to further Israel's moral betterment as Ellison suggests.
The resolution, which passed 33-1 (with supporters that included Russia, Cuba, China, Qatar, Bahrain and Jordan), was aimed at undercutting the ability of a democratic nation to defend itself against terrorists who attacked it by operating out of densely populated civilian areas.
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