State Rep. Keith Ellison, the DFL endorsee in the Fifth Congressional District race, has sent a letter to the Jewish Community Relations Council in an attempt to quell concerns about his connections to a group viewed by many as anti-Semitic.
Ellison said that when he had ties to the Nation of Islam for about 18 months in the mid-1990s he failed to scrutinize the positions of the group and its leader, Louis Farrakhan, and "wrongly dismissed concerns that they were anti-Semitic. I should have come to that conclusion [that they were anti-Semitic] earlier than I did. I regret that I didn't."
Ellison, who could become the first Muslim elected to Congress, noted that there has been "much speculation" about his ties to Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam, an organization that is aimed at improving conditions for black people but has been criticized as being antiwhite, antigay and anti-Semitic.
Ellison wrote that he saw "in the Nation of Islam, and specifically the Million Man March [in 1995], an effort to promote African-American self-sufficiency, personal responsibility, and community economic development." His relationship to Farrakhan has been raised mostly on blogs and in political scuttlebutt.