CAIR: ELLISON IS PART OF IRAQ TRIP ARRANGED BY DEFENSE CHIEF
Rep. Keith Ellison, a rising figure in U.S. public diplomacy in the Mideast, made his first trip to Iraq over the weekend at the behest of Defense Secretary Robert Gates.
Ellison, a first-term Minneapolis Democrat and a longtime critic of the war, is part of an all-freshman bipartisan congressional delegation traveling to the region at Gates' invitation. Ellison plans to stop in Germany this morning and hopes to meet with wounded soldiers there.
He said he has respect for any politician who visits soldiers in Iraq, including Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty.
"If this country is going to ask these young people to stand in a war zone, their political leadership should visit them," Ellison said Friday before departing.
Ellison's religion -- he is the first Muslim member of Congress -- may help him connect with leaders in the region.
"It's obviously a Muslim majority area, and they'll be particularly welcoming to a congressman who shares their faith," said Ibrahim Hooper of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. "I think he would be viewed as having a unique perspective in building bridges of understanding."