BORN AND RAISED IN THE U.S.A.
I didn’t need to watch the PBS series “America at a Crossroads” or read the recent Pew Research Center survey on American Muslims, to know that the Muslim community is under intense scrutiny.
The day I won the Democratic Farmer Labor (DFL) endorsement for the Fifth Congressional District of Minnesota, it was the first question out of the shoot.
“Aren’t you a Muslim?” “Will you be the first one in Congress if you win?” “Will you swear your oath on the Qur’an?” “Do you oppose terrorism?”
I’ve heard them all. But although I’ve been asked a few intrusive, repetitive, and even silly questions about my faith, life has been good. . .
While some Muslim friends and acquaintances have recounted shabby treatment in post 9/11 America, in the next breath they have told me about how they are opening up businesses, sending kids to college, or prospering in some other way. It’s common for some bright young Muslim person to tell me about their own political ambitions. “You might have been first, but I’m gonna be in Congress too.”
Some have pledged to get more politically engaged or to support candidates who have the backbone to speak up for civil and human rights for all. But every prescription I have heard has been solidly within the heartland of American civil redress and our democratic political process.
This should not be surprising, given that 71 percent of Muslim Americans report that they believe that you can make it in America if you work hard, according to a recent Pew Research Center poll. Only 64 percent of Americans on average reported the same level of confidence in American economic and social mobility. For Muslim Americans, the United States is the land of opportunity. . .
American Muslims are an asset to the country, not a threat. Unfair suspicion and profiling does not serve the national interest or honor our hard earned reputation as the beacon for civil and human rights around the world.
I can’t speak for every Muslim, but I remain confident and hopeful about the prospects for America’s Muslims because, in the end, America is about religious tolerance, inclusion, and fairness.
[Keith Ellison became the first Muslim elected to the United States Congress when he won the open seat for Minnesota’s 5th congressional district in 2006.]