At a recent press conference, President Obama responded to a question about growing suspicion of Islam, saying, “We don’t differentiate between us and them. It’s just us.” Unfortunately, this is not the reality that many Muslims here and around the world are experiencing. Nonetheless, Obama’s remarks point to an empirical fact: Millions of Muslims call the United States their home. Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison is one of them.

Ellison, elected in 2006, was the first Muslim to hold congressional office (Andre Carson, a congress member from Indiana, made it two in 2008). He’s also a politician with significant progressive credentials who speaks with unusual forthrightness about the need for racial equity in policy making. ColorLines spoke this week with Ellison about the recent demonization of Muslims in America, the resulting uptick in violence and the politics of anger that have become definitive of this year’s midterm elections.

Commenting on the controversy surrounding the Park 51 Islamic cultural center in downtown Manhattan, NYC Mayor Bloomberg recently said, “This whole issue, I think, will go away right after the next election.” Do you think that these attacks are going to go away after elections?

I do think it’ll die down but I don’t think it will go away.

Why Not?

Because the people who are struck by fear and who are creating a climate of fear with the thought of this Islamic center are not going away. Yes, it’s going to have a tougher time catching the public mind and it is going to have a tougher time getting any news. But you have to understand that there are some people who make their living trying to say, “The Muslims are coming, the Muslims are coming.” It’s important to bear in mind that these folks are not going to stop and pack it in just because the elections are over… They are just going to find something else to make a big deal about. (More)


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