The only Muslim in the Ala­bama Legislature said he hopes he is an example of how religion is becoming less a factor as peo­ple judge political candidates and that some of the paranoia caused by the Sept. 11, 2001, ter­rorist attacks is evaporating.
State Rep. Yusuf Salaam, D-Selma, said he believes he has helped make the religion of a politician less of an issue, much like Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama has re­moved race as an issue for some voters.
"I hope the average Alabami­an can now overlook my reli­gious label and see me as what I am -- a strong patriot and a sup­porter of the American way of life," said Salaam.
Salaam said that's not the way he felt when he came to Montgomery in 2003 as Alabama's first Muslim legislator and felt like there were 104 sets of eyes watching him in the 105-member House of Representatives.
But he said eventually other House members discovered he was "just another human being." They also discovered that as a Muslim, he has many of the same conservative views on social issues such as gay marriage and posting the Ten Commandments in schools as his mostly Christian fellow lawmakers.
Salaam is a Selma attorney and former city council president who ran an unsuccessful campaign for mayor in 2004. He is now beginning his sixth regular session in the House and has worked to become known more for his legislation than for his religion. On Thursday, he was the sponsor of ethics legislation that was the second bill considered in the 2008 session. (MORE)