Source: TIME Magazine
The victory party for Minnesota's first African-American congressman, Keith Ellison, took place at a trendy nightclub in Minneapolis's downtown warehouse district. Down the block from a glitzy sex shop, Trocaderos is the kind of place where both gays and straights look to get picked up, either at the bar or on the dance floor. But on this occasion, the floor was packed with enthusiastic supporters of Ellison, who also happens to be the first Muslim elected to the U.S. Congress.
Not the kind of place where any self-respecting Muslim would normally be found. But on this occasion, drably dressed, bearded Muslim men rubbed shoulders with stylish women in revealing outfits, the latter drinking plenty of alcohol. Meanwhile, Muslim women wearing long, shapeless dresses and head-scarves stood around in small groups. I spoke with an elderly, bespectacled imam from Somalia who wore a large woolen shawl over his shoulders and a colorful, pointed cap, embroidered with ancient-looking but unfamiliar shapes and symbols. His limited knowledge of English did not prevent him from repeating the words "peace, peace, peace" over and over again to me.
The reason for this curious gathering is not hard to figure out. Muslim Americans in Minnesota and throughout the nation have been forging a coalition with liberals on issues like those articulated by Congressman-elect Ellison -- universal health insurance, tougher environmental regulation, opposition to the Patriot Act and an immediate end to the war in Iraq.
Just a few years ago such a coalition would have been unthinkable. In 2000, Muslim American leaders overcame their reluctance to get involved in politics and, almost unanimously, endorsed George Bush for President. For the most part well educated and affluent, Muslim Americans went along with Bush's low-tax, limited government philosophy and enthusiastically embraced his conservative social agenda -- especially Bush's pro-life and anti-gay rights stance.