In a bid to help him become the first Muslim in Congress, Florida Muslim leaders are hosting state rep. Keith Ellison this weekend for multi-fundraiser events that prompted conservatives to rev up protests against him.
“It will be a historic moment for people of good will if [Ellison] is elected to the Congress,” said Altaf Ali, director of Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) of South Florida.
Ali refutes media reports that he’s hosting Ellison in his capacity as a CAIR official.
“There are people everywhere who will vilify everything,” he said. “That’s normal.”
Muslims around the country are keenly contributing to Ellison’s campaign, Ali said, because they hope that he will “become a neutral voice” on issues concerning them in Washington.
The Congress, he said, has “few” House members who are sympathetic to the millions of American Muslims in this country.
In August, CAIR executive director Nihad Awad, a former classmate of Ellison, was among prominent Muslim leaders who fundraised for Ellison in the Twin Cities. That stirred bruising attacks on Ellison led by cadre of conservative blogs and his opponent, Alan Fine, who tied Awad to terrorism groups.
It turned out that Awad was among group of Imams touted by President Bush following Sept. 11.
Fine’s campaign was quick to denounce Ellison’s Florida trip.
“This shows a pattern of association with ant-Semitic groups and organizations that preach hate and divisiveness,” said Chris Tiedeman, communications consultant with Fine’s campaign.
In Florida, a group calling itself Americans Against Hate, mobilized their members for a protest against Ellison and Florida Democratic Gubernatorial candidate Jim Davis, who, according to them, received contributions from another CAIR official.
Ellison’s campaign downplayed that outcry.
Bridget Cusick, spokeswoman for Ellison’s campaign, said in an e-mail response that Ellison “has built bridges to people in every community, between people of diverse backgrounds, and as a result many have supported Keith’s campaign with financial contributions,”