(FinalCall.com) – Members of the incoming 110th Congress had barely finished measuring the drapes in their new offices, before a Republican House member from Rocky Mount, Va., stirred up a hornet’s nest of bigotry over the body’s first Muslim member, out of the more than 14,000 members who have served in Congress throughout U.S. history.
“I fear that in the next century we will have many more Muslims in the United States if we do not adopt the strict immigration policies that I believe are necessary to preserve the values and beliefs traditional to the United States of America,” Rep. Virgil H. Goode (R-Va.) wrote in a letter to his constituents in early December.
His wrath is directed at Rep.-elect Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), a Black man, a descendant of slaves. He was born in Detroit and reared in the Catholic Church. He converted to Islam in college. He is not an immigrant.
“The Muslim representative from Minnesota was elected by the voters of that district and if American citizens don’t wake up and adopt the Virgil Goode position on immigration, there will likely be many more Muslims elected to office and demanding the use of the Koran (sic),” the letter continued. Mr. Ellison told an interviewer that he would take his oath of office holding a copy of the Holy Qur’an, the Islamic scripture, instead of a Christian Bible.
First of all: Article VI of the U.S. Constitution emphatically prohibits religious bigotry such as that of Rep. Goode. “The Senators or Representatives…shall be bound by an oath or affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office of public trust under the United States,” says the Constitution.
Nearly 50 years ago, in his prescient book Message To The Blackman in America, the Honorable Elijah Muhammad urged that the Muslim Program (on page 39 of this newspaper) be put to Congress. “There are many Black men and women who make splendid politicians. They could accomplish considerable good if they-–like the White politician and his people–were given proper and equal recognition for themselves and their people,” Mr. Muhammad wrote.
If it is well past time to “Put the Muslim Program to Congress,” it is certainly time to put the duly elected Muslim member into Congress.
Although Rep. Goode has adamantly refused to apologize for his xenophobia, another Virginia member of the House has condemned him. “Congressman-elect Keith Ellison, born and raised in the American heartland, will prove himself a strong advocate for his constituents and his country,” said Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) in a statement. “It is past time that we had a Muslim-American Member of Congress. The Founding Fathers never intended religion to be a barrier to federal representation. Bringing more Muslim-Americans into the political process is a goal, not something to be avoided.
“Mr. Goode’s constituent letter contains a number of fallacies, not the least of which is his description of the swearing-in process. No book of religious belief is required at the ceremonial swearing-in. Rather, it is up to the individual Member to decide what, if any religious text he or she would like to use.
“As a Muslim American, it is entirely appropriate for Congressman-elect Ellison to use the Koran for his ceremonial swearing-in. And because of the religious tolerance that our Founding Fathers drafted into the Constitution, Mr. Goode has every right to continue, as many Members do, to use the Bible” said Rep. Moran.
“We must give good Black politicians the total backing of our population,” the Honorable Elijah Muhammad advises in Message To The Blackman.
We most certainly must give such politicians including now a Muslim, an opportunity to serve with proper and equal recognition for himself and his people. Taking the Oath of Office should bind the members of Congress to uphold the U.S. Constitution; it should not be a time for religious bigotry.