Minnesota Representative Keith Ellison is currently in the running for the Democratic National Committee (DNC) president nominee at their meeting held February 23 through 25.
While Keith Ellison is a allegedly a shoo-in to become the next DNC president when elections are held on Saturday, February 25, according to NBC News, his one unexpected ally is Donald Trump.
On Twitter on February 22, Donald Trump surprisingly tweeted, “One thing I will say about Rep. Keith Ellison, in his fight to lead the DNC, is that he was the one who predicted early that I would win!”
While the tweet was likely meant to get a rise out of Democrats, many of those that retweeted about Donald Trump’s Keith Ellison post stated that Trump “must have no idea Keith is Muslim.”
In 2007, Keith Ellison became the first Muslim person to become a member of Congress, and he has been a target of anti-Muslim hysteria by conservatives ever since.
Despite this, Democrats see Keith Ellison differently, and New Republic included this idea in an opinion piece about why Ellison is the preferred candidate over Tom Perez.
Namely, Ellison’s background as a Muslim makes him more enticing as a Democratic National Committee president because he represents a “seemingly ideal combination for a party that champions diversity and economic equality.”
Furthermore, Ellison is supported by “young progressives” — the group of Democratic voters that favored Bernie Sanders for president over Hillary Clinton.
As far as being a Muslim, the main sticking point for Keith Ellison’s conservative opponents is that, as a young man, he was associated with members of the former Nation of Islam.
When Keith Ellison converted to Islam at age 19, he joined the newly-formed American Society of Muslims, according to New Yorker.
American Society of Muslims was a group that was organized by politician Warith Deen Mohammed, and he inherited Nation of Islam from Elijah Muhammad. Warith Deen Mohammed condemned racial separatism and promoted Sunni Islam, instead.
In other words, Keith Ellison was practicing Sunni Islam, and the accusations that he was participating directly in the doctrine of the Nation of Islam are rather thin.
The idea that Keith Ellison is currently tied to the Nation of Islam has been eschewed for over 10 years. In 2006, Keith Ellison publicly distanced himself from the Nation of Islam after there was an attempt to scandalize him in the press, and he stated at that time that he saw Louis Farrakhan as an “anti-Semite and a bigot.”
In late 2016, the Chicago Tribune reported that Keith Ellison had been denounced by the Nation of Islam as a “hypocrite” for calling Louis Farrakhan anti-semitic.
Despite this, Keith Ellison regularly has to answer to concerned citizens that are worried his Muslim faith might be a problem.
The New Yorker pointed out that Keith Ellison was wise to announce he was going to run for DNC president as soon as possible because he would be facing “several obstacles” such as “recurring questions about his more radical past.”
There will also need to be time for Democrats to suss through rumors perpetuated online about Keith Ellison that are often found in search engine results. Snopes had a story specifically on the rumor being circulated that Keith Ellison used a Koran to rest his hand on during the swearing in.
Although it is obviously difficult to constantly field the general public’s insecurity about the parameters of his Muslim faith, Keith Ellison has many positive things to say about his time in Congress.
About being a Muslim in Congress, Keith Ellison was interviewed in 2014, according to U.S. News & World Report, and said American Muslims are the “scapegoat du jour” — but things are getting better on Capitol Hill.
Interestingly, one of the people that made Keith Ellison comfortable with the fact that he was sworn into office with the Koran was former DNC president, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz.
When she saw that Ellison was being grilled about this aspect of winning the election, she told him that she was similar to him because she used “a copy of the Tanakh, which is Jewish scripture,” to swear in instead of the Bible.
Of course, many Muslims appreciate Keith Ellison because he stands up for them in Congress against Trump. CBS News pointed out on January 29 that Keith Ellison was one of the first to identify that Trump’s executive orders on immigration were deplorable because they were, in fact, a “Muslim ban.”
[Featured Image by Alex Wong/Getty Images]