BOISE, Idaho — U.S. Rep. Bill Sali has apologized to a Muslim colleague for remarks suggesting the nation’s founders never intended for Muslims to serve in Congress.
In the interview with the Christian-based American Family News Network, Sali, a Republican freshman from Idaho’s 1st District, referred to his U.S. House colleague Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., who last fall became the first Muslim elected to Congress.
The Aug. 8 report also includes Sali questioning the wisdom of Senate leaders, who last month invited a Hindu clergyman to give the morning prayer in the chamber.
“We have not only a Hindu prayer being offered in the Senate, we have a Muslim member of the House of Representatives now,” Sali is quoted as saying on the network’s Web site. “Those are changes, and they are not what was envisioned by the Founding Fathers.”
The comments sparked criticism from liberal bloggers and Idaho Democrats. A former Idaho Democratic congressman called for Sali to either apologize or resign.
Sali responded days later, sending Ellison an e-mail explaining he meant no offense.
“He said that he wanted to make sure that U.S. Rep. Ellison understood that he meant no harm or disrespect,” Sali spokesman Wayne Hoffman said. . .
A spokesman for a national Islamic civil rights group said the organization is satisfied with Sali’s response.
“Obviously we wish it hadn’t occurred in the first place,” said Ibrahim Hooper, of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, based in Washington D.C. “But we think he did the right thing. We hope he will have learned a little more about the American Muslim community and will be more sensitive about his comments in the future.”