The mythical life: Keith Ellison speaks

Ebony has a featured column that it calls [THE SPIRITUAL LIFE]. In the December installment of the column, contributing editor Brooke Obie gives us “From Catholic to Muslim: Congressman Keith Ellison speaks.”

Ellison represents Minnesota’s Fifth District (Minneapolis and inner ring suburbs). I think he’s an important and ambitious man. We’ve had our eye on him since he secured the endorsement for the seat at the DFL Fifth District convention in May 2006. He ran for the endorsement at the convention against Sabo’s hand-picked successor. Adapting the old Buckley adage to the occasion, Ellison was the leftwardmost viable candidate to succeed Sabo. The delegates at the DFL convention thrilled to Ellison’s siren call and rejected Sabo’s guy.

Ellison’s endorsement triggered a multicandidate primary battle for the DFL nomination which Ellison won with a plurality of the votes that September. He got a lot of ink from the Minneapolis Star Tribune, including many references to his Muslim faith. Ellison would become the first Muslim elected to Congress.

In Congress Ellison remains a leftwardmost figure. He’s the co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. He means to take his act to a bigger stage.

When and why Ellison became a Muslim remained (and remains) a matter of mystery. The Star Tribune never inquired or explored the question, and neither did any of the mainstream media who covered Ellison as his election to Congress approached. The media preferred to celebrate Ellison.

I was interested in Ellison’s Muslim conversion for a number of reasons, one of which was that Ellison had been a very public and self-proclaimed member of the Nation of Islam in Minneapolis since he first published articles as a law student at the University of Minnesota up through the time he sought the DFL endorsement to run for a legislative seat in 1998. You can see press clippings to this effect for yourself in “Keith Ellison for dummies,” the companion post to my Weekly Standard article “Louis Farrakhan’s first congressman.”

In the Ebony feature Ellison dates his conversion to Islam back to his college days. I doubt it. I don’t think his story withstands scrutiny in light of subsequent history, unless you read “Nation of Islam” for “Islam.” Maybe Ellison will clear up the mystery in his forthcoming book, My Country ‘Tis of Thee: My Faith, My Family, Our Future, but don’t bet on it.

H/t: Peter Swanson.


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