Democrats have sought to incorporate American Muslims into their coalition of interest groups. They share some common interests, and maybe the common interests predominate, but there are at least a few tensions if not internal contradictions among them.
Minnesota Fifth District Rep Keith Ellison is of course the first Muslim elected to Congress and Somali Muslims form a key part of his constituency. Ellison embodies the alliance between American Muslims and the Democratic Party. One can glimpse how Ellison deals with the tensions in his memoir cum manifesto, My Country, ‘Tis of Thee.
What kind of Muslim is he? Ellison expressly addresses the question. He depicts himself as a live-and-let-live kind of Muslim. “If I were Jewish, I would probably be a reform Jew. If I were Christian, I would be one of those come-as-you-are nondenominational Christians,” he confides. “Faith is not about expressing what I believe so that the world can see I’m faithful. I don’t believe in following a strict set of rules to prove my love for God or to prove my faith.” According to Ellison, “In Islam, your religion is what you make of it.”
As for the question of gay marriage, Ellison concedes that “I get Muslims who come up to me and ask, ‘Brother Keith, how can you be in favor of gay marriage?’” Brother Keith explains: “I’m in favor of civil rights for all. I’m in favor of freedom.”
Those of us who wondered about the reconciliation of his faith with his politics now have the answer. Which branch of Islam comports with the agenda of the Democratic party on social issues? Ellison reveals it to be the Ellison branch of Islam. The same would almost certainly apply to Ellison’s views on abortion and women’s rights. When it comes to the Democratic Party’s current articles of faith, Ellison is standard issue.
One can also glimpse the tensions in the Department of Justice’s treatment of the case of vandalism against an Islamic Center and the underlying facts of the case based on the plea agreement. The DoJ press release describes the graffiti painted on the Islamic Center as including explicit and offensive language in addition to such statements as “Bash Back,” “Now is our time!” and “You bash us in Pakistan we bash here.”
But the plea agreement reports that the graffiti, put up in early 2011, contained “the following statements”:(i) “Allahu F***bar;” (ii) “Queer insurrection;” (iii) “It’s okay to be gay!” (iv) “Now is our time!” (v) “Bash Back;” (vi) “You bash us in Pakistan we bash here;” (vii) “Allah was gay;” (viii) “[illegible] unite;” (ix) “Satanic trans” (with circle around Star of David above); (x) “F*** straights;” and (xi) “Bash Back lives.”
Professor Volokh explains that “Bash Back” is a gay and lesbian activist group. This context therefore “puts a different cast on the graffiti that the press release did quote — at least two and possibly all three of those statements also appear to be pro-gay-rights.”
Above I am drawing on my Weekly Standard article “The Ellison elision” and on Professor Michael Rappaport’s Law & Liberty post. In his post Professor Rappaport speculates on the motives for the DoJ’s misleading press release. My thought is consistent with both of the two speculations offered by Professor Rappaport. Stated slightly differently than Professor Rappaport puts it, the DoJ’s suppression of the nature of the crime represents the Orwellian approach to resolving the tensions between contending elements of the Democratic Party both of whose interests Obama’s DoJ seeks to protect and advance.