2007/08/01

America's First Muslim Congressman Visits Iraq

Keith Ellison, America's only Muslim Congressman and a vocal critic of the war, was in Iraq over the weekend and was interviewed about the trip by USA Today:
"[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."

3 comments:

kochumanavalan said...

It is difficult for me to understand whether the Congressman was in Iraq on a religious or a political mission. I guess in this part of the world, religion, culture, language and politics seem inextricably combined. Hence the difficulty in dealing with them (e.g., any criticism is often quickly mistaken as an insult or an affront to the religion, or the entire race).

Greeting people in their own language is a good and polite practice anywhere in the world, and I personally wouldn't immediately assign a religious connotation to such an approach.

Marcus Aurelius said...

I applaud Ellison's efforts but am suspicious of him. He has hinted he is a "twoofer" (i.e. buys the idea the President was aware of the 9/11 plot and did nothing to stop or actively moved it along).

As far as why he was in Iraq. Fact finding pure & simple. Since he is a Muslim (Nation of Islam or straight up Islam I don't know) he has some sort of cred.s with the locals and since he is a member of W's opposition perhaps he feels he would get more credible information and be more credible back here.

FWIW, if the reports of his visit are accurate, I think this is going to make it harder for the
Dems to disregard what is starting to appear more & more as vindication of the Surge.

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