Keith Ellison defended by Baptist, Jewish leaders after Allen West attacks
Muslim Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison just isn't American enough for Rep. Allen West. The Florida Republican told radio host Richard Peritz that Ellison is the "antithesis of the principles on which this country was established."
Now, Jewish and Baptist leaders are chiding West, urging him not to use his office to insult one religion while proselytizing for his own.
West declared on the radio show that he was standing up for the values of his constituents when he launched his broadside against Ellison. (Glenn Beck would understand.)
Your subsequent statement that Representative Keith Ellison, one of your colleagues in the House of Representatives, is the "antithesis of the principles on which this country was established" because he is Muslim, shows a frightening lack of understanding for these values.
Signers of the letter include Interfaith Alliance President Rev. Welton Gaddy; the Rabbinical Assembly's Rabbi Jack Moline; the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism's Rabbi David Saperstein; and the Rev. J. Brent Walker, executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty. [DOWNLOAD LETTER]
West, of course, denies that he was trashing Ellison for his faith. He says he was denouncing Ellison for supporting the Council on American Islamic Relations. [DOWNLOAD STATEMENT]. But a transcript of the interview clearly shows that CAIR wasn't part of the conversation:
PERITZ: Since you're with a new crowd, people you haven't really met before, and will be very closely associating with in the future, including Keith Ellison, who supports Islam, how will you manage that, if I may ask, because it's not really easy to be polite with individuals one totally disagrees with, which I believe may be the case.
WEST: Well I think it's most important that I stand upon the principles that people elected me to go to Washington, D.C., and represent them on Capitol Hill. So that when you run into someone that is counter, or someone that really does represent the antithesis of the principles upon which this country was established, you've got to be able to defeat them intellectually in debate and discourse, and you to just have to be able to challenge each and every one of their assertions very wisely and very forthright.
Ellison later issued his own statement:
I was surprised to hear of Congressman West's comments because he has never expressed these sentiments to me directly. Contrary to the views expressed by Congressman West, I work to represent the highest ideals of our great nation--ideals like freedom of worship and respect for all faiths, equal protection under the law as well as a civil and open public discourse.
West, a freshman, campaigned on "core values" and "constitutional principles." The question is, for whom?
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss City Pages' biggest stories.