Rep. Keith Ellison, the first Muslim member of Congress, arrived in Israel Friday as part of what his office called a “goodwill mission” to the Middle East.

The nine-day congressional trip, led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., will include meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. The group plans to visit Syria, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia as well.

“U.S. Rep. Ellison’s life has been committed to the promotion of peace,” said Ellison’s spokesman, Rick Jauert. “His very presence on this important trip is a significant step in forwarding that agenda.” . . .

Ellison’s trip to the Middle East comes as the U.S. government has turned to him to help improve America’s image in the Muslim world. The State Department’s Bureau of International Information Programs has profiled him in articles distributed in foreign countries, including translations into Arabic and other languages. Ellison has said he hopes to help win friends for the U.S. in the Muslim world.

As part of that effort, he recently met with Karen Hughes, the State Department’s undersecretary for public diplomacy. . .

Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, an Islamic civil rights group, said that Ellison will be a “symbol of America’s religious diversity” to leaders of the region.

“We hope that in the Palestinian-Israeli issue, he is able to meet with leaders on both sides, and to offer his perspective on the overall conflict and the need for a just resolution,” Hooper said.


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.