Rep. Keith Ellison: Being a Muslim in Congress Has Gotten Better

February 10, 2014

 

Ellison called Muslims in America the “scapegoat du jour.”

Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., was the first Muslim elected to Congress and it’s not always been an easy ride. Monday, on book tour duty for his new tome, “My Country ‘Tis of Thee,” he spoke at the Center for American Progress about being a member of a religion that’s often treated as the “scapegoat du jour.”

For instance, even before he won election, Ellison became the ire of the far-right when he said, on a late night Somali-language program in his district, that he would be sworn in on the Quran.

“It set off a firestorm,” Ellison recalled.

Ellison won his race and found out early on that he had allies in his own party on Capitol Hill. On swearing-in day, then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi asked Ellison to give the prayer before the freshmen class.

“I didn’t know her from a can of paint, but I knew all that I needed to know about her from that moment on,” Ellison said.

Several more of Ellison’s Democratic colleagues bonded with him over their own swearing-in tomes.

“Later in the day of the swearing in, a little lady, about 5-foot-2, curly blonde hair – Debbie Wasserman Schultz – you all know her,’” Ellison said. “[She said], ‘Welcome to Congress and by the way, I want you to know when I swore in, I swore in with a copy of the Tanakh, which is Jewish scripture.”

Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., also approached Ellison to tell the Minnesota Democrat he had used a Bible written in the Gullah dialect.

Another memorable moment came when Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., called a Muslim “radicalization” hearing in March 2011 before the House Homeland Security Committee. Ellison tried to dissuade King from holding the hearing, but when that didn’t work Ellison decided to testify instead. He made a piece of his testimony about Mohammed Salman Hamdani, a 23-year-old American Muslim, who perished on 9/11 trying to save his fellow citizens.

“I started talking about this boy and his heroism and my throat started to get thick, my tongue started to thicken up, I could feel warm tears start rolling down my face,” Ellison said. (Basically, he pulled a House Speaker John Boehner, who has a penchant for crying.)

US News: http://www.usnews.com/news/blogs/washington-whispers/2014/02/10/rep-keith-ellison-being-a-muslim-in-congress-has-gotten-better

Investigators Dig for Roots of Bomb Suspects’ Radicalization

The two men suspected in the Boston Marathon bombings were armed with a small arsenal of guns, ammunition and explosives when they first confronted the police early Friday, and were most likely planning more attacks, the authorities said Sunday.

United States officials said they were increasingly certain that the two suspects had acted on their own, but were looking for any hints that someone had trained or inspired them. The F.B.I. is broadening its global investigation in search of a motive and pressing the Russian government for more details about a Russian request to the F.B.I. in 2011 about one of the suspects’ possible links to extremist groups, a senior United States official said Sunday.

Among the unanswered questions facing investigators are where the suspects acquired their weapons and explosives, how they got the money to pay for them, and whether others helped plan and carry out the attack last Monday.  Mayor Thomas M. Menino of Boston said he believed the brothers were not affiliated with a larger network.  “All of the information that I have, they acted alone, these two individuals, the brothers,” he said on ABC News’s “This Week.”

Mr. Menino said Tamerlan had “brainwashed” his younger brother to follow him and “read those magazines that were published on how to create bombs, how to disrupt the general public, and things like that.”

Tamerlan Tsarnaev was an amateur boxer who had hoped to fight on the U.S. Olympic team, a man who said he had no American friends. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev wrestled at a prestigious high school, won a scholarship from his city and went on to university.  He identified himself then as a Muslim and said he did not drink or smoke: “God said no alcohol.” He said he hoped to fight for the U.S. Olympic team and become a naturalized American. He said he was studying to become an engineer.

They had come to the United States about 10 years ago from a Russian region near Chechnya, according to an uncle, Ruslan Tsarni of Montgomery Village, Md. They had two sisters. As kids they rode bikes and skateboards on quiet Norfolk Street in Cambridge, Mass.

But their lives appeared to take different turns — at least until this week, when a video caught them together on Boylston Street, moments before two bombs unleashed terror at the finish line of America’s most famous race.

The suspects’ uncle Ruslan Tsarni, said in an interview on Sunday that he had first noticed a change in the older brother in 2009. Mr. Tsarni sought advice from a family friend, who told him that Tamerlan’s radicalization had begun after he met a recent convert to Islam in the Boston area. Mr. Tsarni said he had later learned from a relative that his nephew had met the convert in 2007.

As scrutiny increased on how the brothers had been radicalized, Representative Michael McCaul, a Texas Republican who heads the Homeland Security Committee, and Representative Peter T. King, a New York Republican on the panel, sent a letter to the directors of three of the nation’s leading intelligence-gathering agencies calling the F.B.I.’s handling of the case “an intelligence failure.”

Their efforts included analyzing records from the brothers’ phones and computers, to find associates and witnesses and extremist group affiliations. The agents also scoured credit card records and other material seized from their apartment and car for evidence of bomb components, the backpacks used or any other evidence that could tie them to the bombings.

King to hold second hearing on radicalization among American Muslims

Rep. Peter King announced Thursday that he has scheduled a Homeland Security Committee hearing for next week, examining “The Threat of Muslim-American Radicalization in U.S. Prisons.”

The hearing, which is scheduled for 10 a.m. Wednesday, comes three months after King (R-N.Y.) convened a highly scrutinized meeting of his panel to examine the extent of radicalization among American Muslims. King said at the time that he planned to dedicate a June hearing to investigating radicalization among prisoners. The witness list for the upcoming hearing has yet to be released.

While King’s March hearing on radicalization has drawn the greatest attention, the panel also held a meeting last month examining the homeland security implications of Osama bin Laden’s death. And Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) held a hearing of his own in late March that focused on protecting the civil rights of American Muslims. Durbin maintained that the session was not a response to King’s hearing three weeks earlier.

Muslims to Be Congressional Hearings’ Main Focus

The new chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee said Monday that he planned to call mostly Muslim and Arab witnesses to testify in hearings next month on the threat of homegrown Islamic terrorism.
Representative Peter T. King, Republican of New York, said he would rely on Muslims to make his case that American Muslim leaders have failed to cooperate with law enforcement officials in the effort to disrupt terrorist plots — a claim that was rebutted in recent reports by counterterrorism experts and in a forum on Capitol Hill on Monday.

As the hearings approach, the reaction from Muslim groups — initially outraged — has evolved into efforts to get Mr. King to enlarge the scope of the hearings beyond Muslims. They want to use the forum to reinforce the notion that the potential for terrorist violence among American Muslims is very marginal and very isolated.

Coalition urges halt to House hearings on Muslim radicalization

Religious and civil rights groups say the hearings headed by Republican Rep. Peter T. King will demonize Muslim Americans. King remains unmoved.

A coalition of 51 religious and civil rights groups is calling on congressional leaders to stop upcoming hearings on Muslim extremism in the U.S. or have the investigation refocused to include other hate groups.
But King remained unmoved. Asked whether he would respond to a letter Muslim Advocates sent to House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco), King said: “I don’t believe it warrants an answer…. I am too busy preparing for the hearings.”

King appears to have Boehner’s support. Michael Steel, a Boehner spokesman, said the speaker would not respond to the letter from Muslim Advocates. “Rep. King is chairman of the Homeland Security Committee,” Steel said.

Giuliani Adviser: “Too Many Mosques”: Rep. Peter King’s Remark Draws Fire From Muslims, Democrats

(AP) A homeland security adviser to Rudy Giuliani came under fire Thursday for claiming there were too many mosques in the United States – and defended himself by saying his point was that not enough Muslim leaders cooperate with law enforcement. Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., the former chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee and the top GOP member on the panel, said his comments to the Politico Web site were taken out of context. Democrats said Giuliani should drop him as a campaign adviser. I stand by everything I said other than the fact that the Politico totally took it out of context, King said Thursday.