Reading Jane’s post on the morning of March 21, 2008 about the religious beliefs of candidates made me think about how my own Congressman, Keith Ellison, had to deal with religious controversy in his past and how he has been able to overcome it. (Religion and politics in general, and the religious beliefs of candidates running for president in 2008 in particular, seem to be standard fare in the political realm and the media these days.)
While a law student in 1989 and 1990, Ellison wrote several columns as Keith E. Hakim in the student newspaper, the Minnesota Daily. "The first article defended Louis Farrakhan against accusations of anti-Semitism," defended Nation of Islam spokesman Khalid Abdul Muhammad, and spoke in the voice of a Nation of Islam advocate." The second column "called affirmative action a ‘sneaky’ form of compensation for slavery, suggesting instead that white Americans pay reparations to blacks."The third suggested the creation of a separate state for black residents.
In 1995, Ellison, writing an editorial as Keith X. Ellison, stated that Farrakhan is not an anti-Semite. The same year, Ellison was identified as a member of the Nation of Islam in the Star Tribune.
In 1997, when Joanne Jackson, executive director of the Minneapolis Initiative Against Racism (MIAR), allegedly said that, "Jews are among the most racist white people", Ellison, using his religious name Mohammed, read a statement supporting her on behalf of the The Minneapolis-St. Paul Study Group of the Nations of Islam: "[We] stand by Ms. Jackson. We stand by the truth contained in the remarks attributed to her, and by her right to express her view without sanction. Here is why we support Ms. Jackson: She is correct about Minister Farrakhan. He is not a racist. He is also not an anti-Semite. This widespread and unfair practice of whites sanctioning blacks for not denouncing Minister Farrakhan represents a racist double standard, and is an impediment to any honest dialogue about race. If black people are to ever possess a collective sense of self-respect and self-determination, they must not genuflect whenever powerful whites make the unreasonable demand to denounce Minister Farrakhan. Minister Farrakhan said he did not like the tension between the black and Jewish communities, and that he was open to dialogue with any groups as long as they did not set any conditions." Ellison later claimed "While some at that meeting justified her comments, I spoke out in favor of increased dialogue between the Jewish and African-American communities." (more…)