Andre Carson: Speech to Islamic Circle praised success of all faith-based schools

U.S. Rep. Andre Carson, an Indianapolis Democrat who is one of only two Muslims in Congress, is coming under attack for a speech he gave to the Islamic Circle of North America.

André Carson, created controversy when he told an Islamic Circle of North America convention that; American schools should be modeled after Madrassas, or Islamic schools that are built on the foundations of the Quran, WND reports.

The headline on one blog read: “Rep. Andre Carson: American schools won’t excel until the foundation is the Koran.”

Really? Well, no, Carson didn’t say that. What Carson did say was that schools could learn something about innovation from madrassas, the Islamic religious schools. It is about four sentences in a 19-minute speech, given May 26 in Hartford, Conn., as the group held its annual gathering.

The full speech is about being proud to be a Muslim-American and notes that Muslims have been part of the nation from its inception and have much to offer. The conference’s theme was on addressing Islamophobia.

He said he believed faith-based schools, with smaller class sizes, are able to be more experimental and address different kinds of learners.

“They’re given a different kind of freedom to tap into these young American minds,” Carson said.

Asked if he was saying that the Koran should be in the public school classroom, Carson said: “No, no, no.”

Carson said that whether a religious school teaches the Bible, the Torah, the Bhagavad Gita or the Koran, “there’s something to be said about the success rates of faith-based learning institutions that we might be able to extract some principles or some methodology from.”

On ballots this November: More Muslim American women

While many things have changed for Muslim Americans since the September 11th terrorist attacks, one remarkable and positive change is currently unfolding – more Muslims, particularly Muslim women, are running for political office.

Agha Saeed, founder of the American Muslim Alliance, has tracked Muslim candidates for over a decade. Before September 11th, less than 5 percent of the candidates were women, and now one in three Muslim candidates is a woman.

On local levels, there is Jamilah Nasheed, a female Missouri Democratic state representative vying for re-election. Ferial Masry is facing a tough state assembly race in a heavily conservative district near Los Angeles.

While dozens of Muslim Americans hold seats on city councils and are busy in Washington, only two serve in Congress – Keith Ellison of Minnesota and Andre Carson of Indiana. “9/11 had a big impact. We kind of came to the conclusion that sitting on the sidelines… was not going to be a successful strategy, and that people needed to get involved,” said Ellison.

See full text articles:

Associated Press

International Herald Tribune

Second Muslim elected to congress

On Tuesday, Indiana voters elected Andre Carson to Congress, making Carson the second Muslim elected to Congress in U.S. history. Andre Carson is the grandson of the late Democratic Representative Julia Carson, and was elected to serve the balance of her term in the House of Representatives; Julia died in December 2007, after serving 11 years in the district. Andre, who beat the republican candidate with 52% of the vote compared to his opponent’s 44%, converted to Islam about a decade ago. He becomes the second of that faith to be elected, the first being Minnesota Representative Keith Ellison, also a Democrat.

Convert to Islam running for congress

A convert to Islam is an election victory away from becoming just the second Muslim elected to congress. Andre Carson, a political newcomer, is the Democratic nominee in a March 11th special election to succeed his late grandmother, representing Indiana’s 7th district. If Carson wins the district, he would join Keith Ellison as the only Muslims ever elected to congress in the United States. Carson believes his religious identity does not hurt him politically, even while American Muslims struggle to gain acceptance and validity in political representation. ”I think it’s more of an advantage,” Carson said. ”It’s a platform to address ignorance. It’s a platform to really show that this campaign is about inclusion of all races and religions.