"[The Iraqi sheikhs that he met] were very upset and concerned that al-Qaeda is misrepresenting Islam... 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."
Ellison said he would assist in any way he can. He is already helping a State Department outreach effort aimed at improving the image of the U.S. in the Muslim world.
Improving the image of Muslims in the eyes of the US and the image of the US in the eyes of Muslims cannot happen soon enough. I wish him luck.
Ellison said that local leaders in Ramadi told him of how they partnered with U.S. and Iraqi military officials to virtually rid al-Qaeda from the city. Although the lawmakers had to travel in flak vests and helmets, "we did see people walking around the streets of Ramadi, going back and forth to the market."
There have been fewer anti-U.S. sermons as the violence has been reduced, Ellison said, and religious leaders meet regularly with U.S. military officials....
Ellison said he was particularly impressed watching Maj. Gen. Walter Gaskin, U.S. commander in the Anbar province, greeting people with "as-salama aleikum," meaning peace be upon you.
"And they would respond back with smiles and waves," Ellison said. "I don't want to overplay it. There were no flowers. There was no clapping. There was no parade. But there was a general level of respect and calm that I thought was good."