MACON, Ga. – Macon Mayor Jack Ellis has converted to Islam and is now working to legally change his name to Hakim Mansour Ellis.

Ellis, who was raised Christian, said Thursday that he became a Sunni Muslim during a December ceremony in the west African nation of Senegal.

Ellis said he has been studying the Quran for years and that his new religion was originally practiced by his ancestors before they were brought to North America as slaves.

[SEE: The Founding Fathers and Islam]

“Why does one become a Christian?” Ellis said. “You do it because it feels right. It’s the right thing for you to do. … To me it’s no big deal. But people like to know what you believe in. And this is what I believe in.”

At the request of his two of his daughters, Ellis said he will keep his last name the same.

Ellis has not ruled out future runs for elected office after his term expires this year. But he said he had not made any calculations for how his religious conversion might affect him politically. He said he is an American first and is proud to live in a country founded on religious freedom.

Muslims should not be painted with a broad brush simply because of a few radicals, he said.

“If anybody wants to know about Islam, I can hold an intelligent conversation,” Ellis said. “What I’ve found is how little we know about the religion.”


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