- U.S. congressman from Minnesota
- First Muslim elected to the U.S. House of Representatives
- Supported Louis Farrakhan's Nation of Islam
- Says that Farrakhan “is a role model for black youth,” “is not an anti-Semite,” and “is a sincere, tireless, and uncompromising advocate of the black community and other oppressed people around the world”
- Spoke favorably of the high-profile murderers and leftist icons Mumia Abu Jamal, Assata Shakur, and Geronimo Pratt
- Former steering committee member of the National Lawyers Guild's Minnesota chapter
- Publicly defended former Symbionese Liberation Army terrorist Kathleen Soliah
- Supported the activities of the anti-capitalist Occupy Wall Street movement in 2011
See also: Louis Farrakhan Nation of Islam
Congressional Progressive Caucus Congressional Black Caucus
Out of Iraq Congressional Caucus
Born in August 1963, Keith Maurice Ellison was raised as a Roman Catholic in Detroit, Michigan. At age 19, while attending Wayne State University, he accompanied a friend to Jummah prayer at the University's student center, where he heard a Muslim preacher discussing “universal brotherhood, the evils of racism and the common origins of all of humanity.” Impressed by what he heard, Ellison later that year converted to Islam because he perceived it to be a faith that “might inform social change [and] justice in society.” After graduating with a BA in economics in 1987, Ellison enrolled at the University of Minnesota Law School.
As a third-year law student in 1989-90, Ellison penned four columns for the Minnesota Daily under the name “Keith E. Hakim”:
(a) In a November 27, 1989 piece titled “Minister [Louis] Farrakhan Never Claimed to Be a 'Malcolm X',” Ellison laid out his views about racism:
“Racism means conspiracy to subjugate and actual subjugation. That means planned social, economic, military, religious and political subjugation of whites. It cannot be intelligently argued that the Nation of Islam is doing this. In fact, blacks have no history of harming or subjecting whites as a class. On the other hand, whites have it written into their very Constitution that blacks shall be considered three-fifths of a person for purposes of taxation and representation of their white owners. Their Constitution also makes provisions for the return of runaway slaves. Their constitution is the bedrock of American law; it’s the best evidence of a white racist conspiracy to subjugate other peoples.”
(b) In a November 30, 1989 column, Ellison wrote: “The news media prints only the most sensational bits and pieces, never the whole story. This leaves people believing that the Nation of Islam is some kind of black Ku Klux Klan, and they immediately dismiss all of its laudable work.”
(c) On February 2, 1990, Ellison published “Affirmative Action Does Not Make up for Past Injustice,” an article advocating slavery reparations as well as the creation of a geographically self-contained “homeland” for black people:
“Since no one but the WASP elite really appreciates affirmative action, I have a challenge for all fair-minded middle- and working-class white people: I will urge black people to abandon white-dominated, integration-oriented, give-away programs, if you urge white people to justly compensate black people for 250 years of slavery, 90 years of Jim Crow and 25 years of neo-Jim Crow.
“The settlement could be a straight cash transfer for all the black exploitation. This means just compensation for all the labor hours put in by the slaves and just compensation for all the intellectual and artistic property ripped off by all the Elvis Presleys and Pat Boones. It means compensation for all the money ripped off through sharecropping and just compensation owing to all the black athletes of yesterday, such as Jack Jefferson and Joe Louis. It means back payment of the ‘black tax,’ which is the price hike that ghetto merchants and pawnbrokers charge black consumers....
“Finally, blacks would have the option of choosing their own land base or remaining in the United States. Since black people toiled most diligently in the southeastern section of the United States, this land, quite naturally, would be most suitable. That means Arkansas, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and Mississippi. Blacks, of course, would not be compelled to move to the black state, and, of course, peaceful whites would not be compelled to move away.”
(d) In one piece, Ellison defended the incendiary Nation of Islam spokesman and black supremacist Khalid Abdul Muhammad, and, as The Weekly Standard reports, spoke “in the voice” of Muhammad.
In February 1990, Ellison participated in sponsoring Kwame Ture (a.k.a. Stokely Carmichael) to speak at his law school on the subject, “Zionism: Imperialism, White Supremacy, or Both?”—a speech that proved to be deeply anti-Semitic. Ellison subsequently defended the speech.
After earning a Juris Doctorate in 1990, Ellison worked three years as a litigator with the Minnesota-based law firm Lindquist & Vennum. He then served as executive director of the Legal Rights Center in Minneapolis, which specialized in the pro bono defense of “low-income people and people of color.” After that, he took a job with the law firm Hassan & Reed Ltd. (also in Minneapolis).
During the 1990s, Ellison failed to pay all or part of his income taxes on a number of occasions. Consequently, the IRS filed liens against him and he eventually was forced to pay some $25,000 in back taxes. Ellison also ignored fines that he had incurred for parking tickets and moving violations so numerous that his driver's license was suspended multiple times.
In October 1992 Ellison publicly came to the defense of Sharif Willis, a convicted murderer and ex-convict who was now the leader of the violent Minneapolis-based Vice Lords gang. The previous month, four Vice Lord members had used Willis’s house as their headquarters for planning the murder of a local police officer named Jerry Haaf. At the trial of one of the killers, two witnesses implicated Willis in the plot. Willis himself was never charged, however, because law-enforcement authorities said they lacked sufficient evidence to convict him. Ellison helped organize a demonstration against Minneapolis police, where he denounced “the campaign of slander the police federation has been waging” against Willis. He also told the crowd that the police union was systematically trying to frighten white people in order to persuade the city to hire more officers and thereby strengthen the police union’s power base. In February 1993, while the trial of Officer Haaf’s killers was in progress, Ellison led a protesting crowd outside the courthouse in the chant: “We don't get no justice, you don't get no peace!” In February 1995 Willis was convicted in federal court for several drug and gun-related offenses, for which he was sentenced to 20 years in prison.
In 1995 Ellison worked actively on behalf of the Nation of Islam. At a University of Minnesota rally to promote Louis Farrakhan’s highly anticipated Million Man March, Ellison, who organized the rally, appeared onstage with Khalid Abdul Muhammad, who delivered a thundering, racist diatribe.
That same year, when Qubilah Shabazz, daughter of the late Malcolm X, was indicted for conspiring to murder Farrakhan, Ellison organized a march on the U.S. Attorney's office in Minneapolis demanding that Shabazz be released, and alleging that the FBI itself had conspired to try to kill Farrakhan. In a November 6, 1995, column for the Minneapolis periodical Insight News, Ellison wrote under the name “Keith X Ellison” and condemned a Star Tribune editorial cartoon implying that Farrakhan was an anti-Semite. Ellison argued to the contrary, saying that “Minister Farrakhan is a role model for black youth”; “is not an anti-Semite”; “is a sincere, tireless, and uncompromising advocate of the black community and other oppressed people around the world”; and is regarded by “most black people” as “a role model for youth and, increasingly, a central voice for our collective aspirations.”
In February 1997 Ellison served as a local NOI spokesman (with the surname “Muhammad”) at a public hearing in connection with a controversy involving Joanne Jackson of the Minnesota Initiative Against Racism. Jackson, a supporter of Louis Farrakhan, was alleged to have said that “Jews are among the most racist white people I know.” Declared Ellison: “We stand by the truth contained in the remarks attributed to [Ms. Jackson], and by her right to express her views without sanction. Here is why we support Ms. Jackson: She is correct about Minister Farrakhan. He is not a racist. He is also not an anti-Semite. Minister Farrakhan is a tireless public servant of Black people, who constantly teaches self-reliance and self-examination to the Black community.”
Ellison first emerged as a candidate for public office in 1998, when he ran, unsuccessfully, for the Democratic-Farmer-Labor (DFL) Party nomination for state representative as “Keith Ellison-Muhammad.” In an article on his candidacy that appeared in Insight News, Ellison identified himself as an NOI member and was still defending Farrakhan: “Anticipating possible criticism for his NOI affiliation, Ellison-Muhammad says he is aware that not everyone appreciates what the Nation does and [he] feels there is a propaganda war being launched against its leader, Minister Louis Farrakhan.”
In 1998 as well, Ellison appeared at a public forum as a spokesman for NOI.
In February 2000 Ellison gave a speech at a fundraising event sponsored by the Minnesota chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, on whose steering committee he previously had served. Also in attendance was the former Weather Underground leader Bernardine Dohrn. The event was a fundraiser for onetime Symbionese Liberation Army terrorist Kathleen Soliah after her apprehension in St. Paul for the attempted murder of Los Angeles police officers in 1975. Calling for Soliah's release, Ellison referred to her as “basically … a black gang member” (though she is white) because she was purportedly a victim of government persecution. He also described Soliah as a woman who had been “fighting for freedom in the '60s and '70s.” (Soliah subsequently pled guilty to charges in Los Angeles and to an additional murder charge in Sacramento.) Further, Ellison spoke favorably of the high-profile murderers and leftist icons Mumia Abu Jamal, Assata Shakur, and Geronimo Pratt.
In 2002 Ellison, having dropped “Muhammad” from his name, was elected to the Minnesota House of Representatives; two years later he was re-elected.
In 2006 Ellison ran (as a Democrat) for Minnesota's Fifth District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. Early that year, the Minnesota State Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board reprimanded Ellison's campaign for unreported contributions, misclassified disbursements, and inaccurate cash balances. Ellison himself was fined for willful violation of Minnesota's campaign-finance-reporting law and was sued twice by the state attorney general.
In May 2006, Ellison addressed his Nation of Islam links in a letter he penned to the local chapter of the Jewish Community Relations Council. In the letter, Ellison asserted that his involvement with NOI had been limited to an 18-month period around the time of the Million Man March in 1995; that he had been unfamiliar with the organization’s anti-Semitic views at that time; that he “did not adequately scrutinize” those views; and that he himself had never expressed or defended such views. "I have long since distanced myself from and rejected the Nation of Islam," Ellison wrote. But all of these assertions by Ellison were demonstrably false. As journalist Joe Kaufman, founder of Americans Against Hate, writes: “Indeed, although he has since denied it, Ellison was involved with NOI for ten long years. In that time, he participated in NOI rallies, including the Million Man March hate fest; he defended NOI hate speech; and he used such NOI aliases as Keith Hakim, Keith X Ellison, and Keith Ellison-Muhammad.”
The Council on American-Islamic Relations’ (CAIR) executive director, Nihad Awad (a self-identified supporter of Hamas), spoke at an August 25, 2006 fundraiser for Ellison, who accepted thousands of dollars in campaign donations raised by Awad. All told, the Ellison congressional campaign received approximately $50,000 in contributions that were given or raised by CAIR officials.
Also during the 2006 campaign, Ellison called for an immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq and the impeachment of President Bush.
In August 2006 the Communist Party USA (CPUSA) said: “If Keith Ellison is elected in November to represent Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District, he will bring to the U.S. House of Representatives a fresh progressive voice in tradition of Paul Wellstone. He will also be the first African American congressman from Minnesota and the first Muslim in the U.S. Congress.”
In October 2006 Ellison keynoted a closed-door meeting of CAIR in Pembroke Pines, Florida.
Ellison won his congressional election on November 7, 2006, and has been re-elected every two years since then. At his 2006 victory party, a number of his supporters shouted “Allahu Akbar!”—the traditional battle cry of jihadists.
Later in November 2006, Ellison gave a speech titled “Imams and Politics” to the Fourth Annual Body Meeting of the North American Imams Federation (NAIF). At that conference, he also participated in a “Community Night” event along with Imams Siraj Wahhaj and Omar Shahin. Two days after the NAIF gathering, Shahin and five other conference attendees were removed from a US Airways flight when their suspicious behavior alarmed other passengers. In the wake of the airline incident, Ellison asked to meet with executives of US Airways and the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC) to discuss what had happened. “While some constituents have understood the fears of the passenger who reported the clerics' prayers as suspicious activity, many more have expressed shock and surprise at what they perceive as discrimination,” Ellison wrote in a letter to US Airways CEO Doug Parker and Jeff Hamiel, executive director of the MAC.
On December 24, 2006, Ellison spoke at a Dearborn, Michigan convention of the Muslim American Society and the Islamic Circle of North America.
That same month, Ellison spoke at the sixth annual convention of the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC). Two years later, he would address a town hall forum during MPAC's “Activate '08 Election Campaign.”
On January 4, 2007, Ellison placed his right hand on a Koran (instead of a Bible) at the photo-op reenactment of his congressional swearing-in ceremony. (At the earlier, official ceremony, all the newly elected representatives were sworn in at one time, without any books.) Notably, the Koran used by Ellison had once belonged to Thomas Jefferson; the book had been taken from the Library of Congress, under security, specifically for Ellison's swearing-in ceremony. Clayton State University English professor Mary Grabar observed: “In this p.r. stunt [Ellison] tried to claim Jefferson’s blessing. The mainstream media presented it as another way to upstage what they see as ignorant rubes who would be upset by a Congressman not using the traditional Bible in the swearing-in ceremony.”
Soon after joining the House of Representatives, Ellison became a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, the Congressional Black Caucus, and the Out of Iraq Congressional Caucus.
On February 20, 2007, Ellison endorsed the 2008 presidential campaign of Barack Obama, praising the latter's “unifying spirit” as well as his “message of an open and fair economy, a balanced prosperity and clear opposition to the war in Iraq.”
In May 2007 Ellison spoke at the fourth annual convention of the Muslim American Society. On June 16, 2007, he was a featured speaker at the first annual banquet of CAIR’s Minnesota chapter. That same month, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee honored Ellison with its Trailblazer Award, for his “career of advocacy focused on promoting civil and human rights, peace, and prosperity for working families.”
On June 28, 2007, Ellison co-sponsored Rep. Dennis Kucinich’s bill to impeach Republican Vice President Dick Cheney for “high crimes and misdemeanors.” The bill charged that Cheney had “purposefully manipulated [pre-Iraq War] intelligence” and had “fabricated a threat of weapons of mass destruction.” Other co-sponsors included William Lacy Clay, Jan Schakowsky, Barbara Lee, Lynn Woolsey, and Maxine Waters.
In a July 2007 speech, Ellison likened America's military response to the 9/11 attacks to the manner in which the Nazis had exploited the 1933 burning of the Reichstag in Berlin: “It’s almost like the Reichstag fire, kind of reminds me of that. After the Reichstag was burned, they blamed the Communists for it, and it put the leader [Hitler] of that country in a position where he could basically have authority to do whatever he wanted.”
In 2007 Ellison was a guest speaker at that year's Take Back America conference, which was organized by the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) and the Campaign for America's Future (CAF). Ellison also spoke at the 2009 and 2010 America's Future Now conferences organized by those same two organizations, and at a 2011 Take Back the American Dream conference, again organized by IPS and CAF.
Ellison was angry when several officials of the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development (HLF) were tried in 2007, on charges that they had funneled millions of dollars to Hamas. After the trial ended with a hung jury on most counts, Ellison, speaking at a CAIR fundraising banquet in Anaheim, denounced the entire case as a "persecution" of the defendants, adding: "And the worst of it was not that these people's lives were disrupted, their reputations were tarnished. The worst of it was that  other organizations were tossed in to the mix of it all as they were listed as unindicted co-conspirators. No evidence to be found that they had done anything. So here is what we have today. 300 reputable civil rights organizations, including CAIR, put on a list they never should have been put on in a case where they had been thoroughly exonerated. It's time to call an end to wasting taxpayer money in this manner. There have been other prosecutions for Muslim charities and we've come up with nothing at all when it comes to convictions in these cases. It's time for us to call a stop to this selective prosecution. It's time to say that our justice system and our prosecutors and our police officers are here to investigate crime for the sake of public safety, not to pursue a political agenda."
Ellison issued no comment the following year, when the HLF defendants were retried and convicted on all counts.
In 2007, 2008, and 2009, Ellison spoke at the Islamic Society of North America’s annual national conventions. His 2008 address discussed the theme of “mobilizing the Muslim political machine.”
In the spring of 2008, Ellison keynoted the Muslim American Society's Minnesota convention, appearing alongside Siraj Wahhaj.
In 2008 Ellison spoke at CAIR-Tampa's sixth annual banquet, where he urged his listeners to support Sami al-Arian, the former University of South Florida professor who had confessed two years earlier to conspiring to supply goods and services to the terrorist group Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
In April 2008, Ellison introduced Resolution 1078 to the House Foreign Affairs Committee. This Resolution called for the implementation of a Global Marshall Plan that would “demonstrate the commitment of the United States to peace and prosperity,” a plan that “must operate within the ethical framework of generosity and magnanimity, not merely of instrumentality, and to be successful and must be perceived as more than a new attempt to extend influence into the world.” This plan mirrored the foreign-policy approach advocated by the Network of Spiritual Progressives.
In May 2008 in St. Louis, Ellison was a panelist at a town hall meeting held at the 37th International Convention of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, which was founded by the Communist Party USA.
Also in 2008, Ellison accepted $13,350 from the Muslim American Society (MAS) to finance his 16-day December pilgrimage to Mecca.
During “Operation Cast Lead” (OCL), a December 2008/January 2009 military operation in which Israel sought to quell the aggression of Hamas and other terrorists in Gaza, Ellison, stating that he was "torn" on the issue, voted "present" on -- rather than in favor of -- a January 9th nonbinding House resolution "recognizing Israel's right to defend itself against attacks from Gaza, reaffirming the United States' strong support for Israel, and supporting the Israeli-Palestinian peace process." The resolution passed by a margin of 390 to 5, while 21 other legislators joined Ellison in voting "present."
"The people who have a strong sympathy for the Israeli position dominate the conversation," Ellison told Al Jazeera during OCL. "It is really not politically safe to say there have been two sides to this." In an interview a month later with the BBC, Ellison similarly lamented that it was not feasible for any member of Congress to reach out diplomatically to Hamas -- not because Hamas was a genocidal terrorist organization sworn to the destruction of Israel and the mass murder of Jews -- but because such an outreach effort would be politically unpopular in the United States: "What I can tell you now is that the constellation of political forces in the United States at this moment would make a member of Congress who has reached out directly to Hamas spend all their time defending that decision and would not be able to deal with other critical issues that need to be focused on. So for example if I were to make a move like that I wouldn't be able to focus my attention on the humanitarian issue. I'd have to defend myself to my colleagues why I reached out to a terrorist organization. It would absorb all of my time. I would spend a lot of time fighting off personal attack and would not be able to achieve goals that I have."
"In mid-February 2009," reports the Investigative Project on Terrorism, "Ellison, accompanied by Rep. Brian Baird (D-WA), visited Gaza and Israel to observe the humanitarian situation after the Gaza War. Although the pair spent time on both sides of the border, most of their public statements emphasized the idea that Israel, and not Hamas, was victimizing Palestinians in Gaza."
In 2009, after the FBI had cut off its contacts with CAIR because of the organization's ties to Hamas, Ellison spoke at three CAIR fundraising dinners, gave videotaped statements at a number of others, and appeared with CAIR officials at meetings on healthcare reform and at Muslim religious festivals.
Also in 2009, Ellison delivered the keynote address at a Washington, DC forum titled “Engaging The Muslim World—Challenges and Opportunities,” sponsored by the U.S. Institute Of Peace. In his speech, Ellison stated that “violent extremism with a Muslim veneer is essentially a post-colonial reaction” (i.e., a reaction to past Western colonialism) and a manifestation of a “political environment rooted in grievance.”
In 2009 as well, Ellison met with Mohammed al-Hanooti -- a leading U.S.-based fundraiser for Hamas -- at a campaign event for for Virginia House of Delegates candidate Esam Omeish, who had previously exhorted Palestinians to follow "the jihad way" in their struggle against Israel.
In the fall of 2009 Ellison disparaged American Islamic Forum for Democracy founder M. Zuhdi Jasser, a Muslim who has consistently warned about the threat that political Islam poses to the West, as a Muslim "Uncle Tom." Blacks, Ellison explained, are "familiar with people who would seek to ingratiate themselves with powerful people in the white community and would there turn them on the rest of us and give license to attack us all."
In a September 2009 article which he wrote, Ellison called for an end to all U.S. aid to Israel, asserting that such aid was unnecessary because Israel "is a modern industrial power with a personal income rivaling Great Britain's and a health care system that covers all its citizens."
In October 2009 Ellison denounced four Congressional Republicans who had called for an investigation of CAIR's possible infiltration of government committees. Said Ellison: “The idea that we should investigate Muslim interns as spies is a blow to the very principle of religious freedom that our Founding Fathers cherished so dearly.” Soon thereafter, Ellison attended a CAIR fundraising event in Washington and urged the organization's supporters to apply for jobs with the incoming Obama administration.
In October 2009 as well, Ellison praised the anti-Semitic Muslim scholar Hamza Yusuf as one of several "respected religious authorities who converted to Islam."
On January 27, 2010, Ellison authored a letter that was signed by 53 fellow Members of Congress, calling on President Barack Obama to use diplomatic pressure to end Israel's blockade of Gaza—a blockade which had been imposed in order to prevent the importation of weaponry from Iran and Syria. By Ellison's telling, the blackade constituted an unjust form of "collective punishment" against the Palestinian people.
During his 2010 congressional re-election bid, Ellison accepted campaign contributions from such notables as Jamal Barzinji and Hisham Al-Talib, both of whom had previously served as vice presidents of the International Institute of Islamic Thought, and both of whom had been identified by the FBI as U.S. leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood. Ellison also received donations from former Muslim American Society president Esam Omeish; Turkish Islamist Merve Kavakci; and former American Muslim Council officials Aly Abuzaakouk, Mohammed Cheema, and Yayha Basha. Further, CAIR executive director Nihad Awad helped organize a fundraiser on Ellison's behalf.
Speaking at a 2010 fundraiser that was hosted by former Muslim American Society leader and jihad supporter Esam Omeish, Ellison made plain his belief that Israel played far too large a role in controlling American foreign policy: “The United States foreign policy in the Middle East is governed by what is good or bad through a country of seven million people. A region of 350 million all turns on a country of seven million. Does that make sense? Is that logic?” Also at this event, Ellison said:
- “[T]here is a growing awareness in the U.S. Congress and in the executive branch that everything anyone does, including Israel, is not fine.... But let me just tell you, this effort to stop settlements throughout East Jerusalem and throughout the rest of Palestine cannot be something that only the President carries on his shoulders. The American people have got to stand up and say something. And who's going to say something if you don't say something?... This is an important issue, and we should not let the President be out there by ourselves.”
- “Why are we sending $2.8 billion a year over there [to Israel] when they won’t even honor our request to stop building in East Jerusalem? Where is the future Palestinian state going to be if it’s colonized before it even gets up off the ground?”
- “[W]e're Americans, right? We can't allow another country [Israel] to treat us like we're their ATM. Right?”
- “We should be building the bilateral business relationships between the United States and the Muslim world….Morocco, we gotta build it up. Saudi Arabia, we gotta build it up. The Gulf countries, we gotta build them. Pakistan, we gotta build them.... We need to have so much goods and services going back and forth between this country and the Muslim world that if we [American Muslims] say we need this right here, then everyone is saying, OK. Understand my point? You’ve got to be strategic….These business relationships can be leveraged to say that we need a new deal politically.”
- “And I am telling you, that with your help, we are able to take Muslim presence on Capitol Hill from zero to a real player. And this is what we're trying to do and we got to do it in every state house in America, we got to do it in the Capitol Hill. The message I want to send to you is that what you're doing by donating to this campaign is positioning me and positioning Muslims in general to help steer the ship of state in America. You understand what I am saying? Steer it in a direction that makes sense.”
- “... [T]hat country [Israel] has mobilized its Diaspora in America to do its bidding in America.”
- “I just want to again thank Dr. Omeish, and let brother Esam know that he is my beloved brother. And I love you and you are the best and your family is so beautiful ...”
In 2011 Ellison spoke at a rally held during the annual conference of Netroots Nation.
At a Network of Spiritual Progressives event in early 2011, Ellison derided what he viewed as America's traditional means of conducting foreign policy:
“Diplomatically, we have got to understand that it's not about imposing will upon countries through economic warfare, like all these sanctions that we're so fond of. Equity has got to be how we interact with the rest of the world. And I'm telling you that many of the problems that we are facing today find their roots in colonial relationships that are fundamentally premised on inequity. And the reactions from people of what we used to refer to as the Third World. ... Much of what we are seeing is a reaction to historic colonial relationships and neocolonial relationships.”
Ellison added: “[S]omething is wrong ... when we have the attitude that my oil is under your sand, and so I'm gonna get it from you, and I'm willing to end your life to do it and ruin your society to do it.” He then proceeded to urge U.S. dialogue with Iran vis à vis the latter's nuclear-weapons program: “When we discuss Iran, we should be discussing what happened in 1953”—a reference to the overthrow of Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh's government, with the aid of American and British intelligence agencies.
On March 10, 2011, Ellison testified at a Committee on Homeland Security hearing in Washington, DC, titled “The Extent of Radicalization in the American Muslim Community and that Community's Response.” In his testomony, Ellison said: “Ascribing the evil acts of a few individuals to an entire community is wrong; it is ineffective; and it risks making our country less secure.... Targeting the Muslim American community for the actions of a few is unjust. Actually all of us—all communities—are responsible for combating violent extremism. Singling out one community focuses our analysis in the wrong direction.”
In May 2011, Ellison was the keynote speaker at a CAIR-Los Angeles fundraiser. According to the Investigative Project on Terrorism, Ellison spoke at a minimum of twelve CAIR fundraising events between 2006-16.
In the fall of 2011 Ellison strongly supported the activities of the anti-capitalist Occupy Wall Street movement.
In September 2012 Ellison condemned a portion of the Republican Party Platform that stated: “There must be no use of foreign law by U.S. courts in interpreting our Constitution and laws. Nor should foreign sources of law be used in State courts; adjudication of criminal or civil matters.” Characterizing the foregoing text as a manifestation of anti-Sharia sentiment and a generalized spirit of intolerance, Ellison said:
“It's an expression of bigotry. There has never been any legislation offered to establish Shariah law—not at the federal level, not at the state level. There's not been a municipal ordinance opposing this, there's not been anything.... Why do they want to become the party of hate? They're hating on immigrants who are from Latin America. They're demonstrating hatred toward Muslims. They're demonstrating hostility toward women. They act like they don't like gay people.... I'm sad that they have decided to go into this dark ugly place where they see the whole world as their enemy.... [T]hey're the party that is basically a bigoted party and they have now officially declared themselves against a whole segment of the American population, because if we said we were going to put a plank opposing Jewish law, or Catholic canon, it would be an outrage. This is also an outrage."
When Ellison debated Republican challenger Chris Fields on October 18, 2012, the latter accused Ellison of having paid a law firm $240,000 to dig up embarrassing details of Fields' divorce; of having shorted his own (Ellison's) ex-wife on child-support payments; and of having enriched himself to the tune of some $2 million via funds from pharmaceuticals and other companies. In response, Ellison called Fields “stupid,” a “lowlife scumbag,” and a “gutter dweller.” Notably, however, the congressman did not deny the $2 million enrichment charge.
In a February 2013 interview with Fox News' Stuart Varney, Ellison expressed his belief that it is “fair” for the wealthy to be taxed at whatever rate is necessary to raise money for the provision of services to lower-income Americans. When asked if a 65% or 75% income tax rate would be fair, he stuck to his principle.
In April 2013, Ellison was the featured speaker at a “benefit dinner” held by EMERGE USA, an organization that seeks to increase the political influence of Muslim, Arab, and South Asian Americans.
On October 8, 2013, Ellison was one of eight members of Congress (all Democrats) who were arrested when they sat in the middle of Independence Avenue and blocked rush-hour traffic during an immigration rally on Washington’s National Mall. Though the Mall was, at that time, legally closed due to a so-called “government shutdown” that had gone into effect a week earlier, the National Parks Service allowed the demonstration to take place because of First Amendment protections. Consisting of more than 15,000 participants, the rally was intended to persuade Congress to pass legislation allowing illegal immigrants to apply for U.S. citizenship. Also arrested were U.S. Representatives Joseph Crowley, Al Green, Raul Grijalva, Luis Gutierrez, John Lewis, Charles Rangel, and Jan Schakowsky.
As reported by the Nation of Islam newspaper the Final Call, both Ellison and NOI leader Louis Farrakhan attended a private dinner and "dialogue" hosted by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani when the latter visited the United States in September 2013. Said the NOI report: "After the guests were hosted at a dinner, the Iranian president entered and engaged in a warm discussion with guests, including Democratic congressmen Greg Meeks of New York and Keith Ellison of Minnesota, who is a Muslim. Abdul Akbar Muhammad, international representative of the Nation of Islam, and Supreme Capt. Mustapha Farrakhan were part of the Nation of Islam delegation." Moreover, the NOI report included photos of Ellison participating in a panel discussion along with Farrakhan, Meeks, and another Democratic congressman, Andre Carson. (In 2016, Farrakhan posted a video to Facebook saying that Ellison and Carson had also visited him in 2015.)
In a March 2014 television interview, host Bill Maher asked Ellison: "[W]hy doesn't your party come out against the Second Amendment? It's the problem." To that, Ellison replied: "I sure wish they would. I sure wish they would." Ellison then proceeded to enumerate a number of steps that could be taken to eviscerate the Second Amendment: "You've got to make sure that the CDC can issue reports on gun killings and hand gun violence. You've got to make sure that we can get rid of assault weapons [i.e., semiautomatic weapons]. You've got to close the loophole at gun shows. You've got to do a whole range of things to get us into a sane place. We've got 12,000 handgun murders a year. It's got to stop."
During Operation Protective Edge (OPE) -- a 2014 Israeli military incursion that was launched in response to a dramatic escalation in rocket fire against Israel by Hamas-affiliated terrorists in Gaza -- Ellison penned a Washington Post op-ed arguing that any ceasefire should be predicated on Israel ending its blockade of Gaza, and claiming that a permanent peace would never be possible unless Israel were to permit and facilitate a large measure of economic relief in Gaza. "The status quo for ordinary Gazans is a continuation of no jobs and no freedom," he wrote. "This is not an attractive future. Gazans want and deserve the dignity of economic opportunity and freedom to move."
Also in 2014, Ellison was one of only eight House members to vote against H. J. Res. 76, a resolution to increase the amount of U.S. financial aid that was earmarked to help Israel maintain and develop its Iron Dome missile-defense system -- a system that had successfully intercepted dozens of Hamas rockets aimed at Israeli population centers. In an August 4, 2014 statement, the congressman explained his vote thusly: "I support the Iron Dome and have voted in favor of appropriations of over $1 billion to Iron Dome since its inception. I repeat my condemnation of Hamas' indiscriminate rocketing of Israeli civilians, and I am grateful Iron Dome has been there to protect them. I voted against H. J. Res. 76 because I believe in the midst of a hot war with so many casualties, the US government needs to be prioritizing a ceasefire between the two sides. The Palestinians of Gaza remain vulnerable.... Congress should show compassion for both sides, and should also be working to fund humanitarian aid to Palestinians in Gaza. In the end, there is no military solution to this conflict...."
In a February 2015 address he delivered at the U.S. Vote Foundation’s Voting and Elections Summit in Washington, DC, Ellison denounced conservative efforts to pass voter-identification laws. Said the congressman: “Now I also think we need to make voting easier; it should be easier. In other countries it's easier. Why should voting be so difficult? Tuesday? Who thought that up? I mean the fact is, is that there’s wide variation in when people can vote. You can’t necessarily register to vote on Election Day. I’ve often asked myself why you should have to register to vote. Why shouldn’t it be automatic?”
When President Obama announced in September 2015 that he planned to admit 10,000 Syrian refugees to the U.S. during the next year, Ellison said: “Ten thousand is not enough. Aren’t we the people who say, ‘give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses’? We must do more for families who are not safe in their own homeland.” Just prior to Obama's announcement, Ellison had written the president a letter saying: “Now, more than ever, we need to live up to our history by increasing the number of Syrian refugees allowed to resettle in the United States.” (Obama's decision to import Syrian refugees was controversial because the Islamic State had vowed to secrete its own terrorist operatives into refugee masses, and high-ranking government officials like FBI Director James Comey, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, CIA Director John Brennan, and FBI Deputy Assistant Director Michael Steinbach had all said that it would be impossible to reliably screen out terrorists posing as refugees.)
In September 2015 as well, Ellison voiced his unequivocal support for the passage of the Iran Nuclear Deal, which allowed the Islamist regime in Tehran to enrich uranium, build advanced centrifuges, purchase ballistic missiles, fund terrorism, and have a near-zero breakout time to a nuclear bomb approximately a decade down the road. “This deal is a triumph of diplomacy over war and proves negotiation is an excellent method of peacemaking,” said Ellison. “It throws a wrench in the war machine and tells those who profit from conflict: we choose peace.”
Ellison was one of two keynote speakers at the Islamic Shura Council of California's 21st anniversary celebration on February 27, 2016. The other keynoter at that event was Siraj Wahhaj.
During a trip to Israel in June 2016, Ellison tweeted a photo of a sign accusing Israel of practicing “apartheid” against the Palestinians. According to Tabletmag.com, "Ellison’s comment reinforced the libel."
At the Democratic National Convention in July 2016, Ellison was a featured speaker in an event held by the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation—part of an alliance of anti-Israel organizations that promote the Boycott, Divestment, & Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel. Ellison himself supports BDS.
In 2016 as well, Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders used his influence to secure, for Ellison, a major role in formulating the Democratic Party’s platform for the election campaign. As terrorism expert Steven Emerson reports: "Ellison and other delegates supporting Sanders wanted the Democratic Party platform to delete a description of Jerusalem as Israel's 'undivided capital' and wanted to gut language opposing the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement targeting the Jewish state."
After Fidel Castro died in November 2016, Ellison issued the following statement about the late Cuban dictator:
"He was a revolutionary leader who confronted a system of government that excluded everybody except the military and the money-rich. And he took them on, defeated them and then set the country up in a way where … Did he use harsh dictatorial tactics? Yes, probably he did … but, did he also stand up for peace and freedom in Africa? Absolutely. His Cuban forces took on the South Africa apartheid military forces and defeated them.
"And, actually deployed doctors anywhere from Chernobyl to all over South Africa, anywhere people were sick. He sent those doctors there. He made medical education very available, made medicine available. So if you look at his legacy you have to say that he confronted people with a lot of power on behalf of people that didn’t have any. He also did jail people who were political critics of his, he also did not allow … free speech … It’s a mixed bag."
Ellison was scheduled to be the keynote speaker for the annual Muslim American Society (MAS)/ Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) national convention in late December 2016. But in the days just prior to that event, websites like the Middle East Forum and the Investigative Project on Terrorism publicized a great deal of crucial information revealing the fact that many of the speakers who were slated to share the podium with Ellison had ties to highly radicalized Islamic elements. For example, the convention's program director, Ahmed Taha, (a) was an open supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood; (b) had previously posted online videos claiming to expose the “Rothschild Zionism Secret Regime in America”; and (c) had circulated articles characterizing Egypt as “Israeli-occupied territory” because of its relatively friendly relations with the Jewish state.
Among the speakers scheduled to speak at the same MAS/ICNA event were the following:
- Ali Qaradaghi, secretary general of the International Union of Muslim Scholars, a pro-Hamas group that counts former Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh as a member;
- Osama Abu-Irshaid, the American Muslims for Palestine national director who had recently referred to Hamas as “an army for liberation”;
- Siraj Wahhaj, whom the U.S. Attorney for New York had identified as an unindicted co-conspirator in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing;
- Mohammad Qatanini, a Muslim Brotherhood member who was facing deportation from the U.S. on charges connected to his undisclosed former membership in Hamas; who had prayed in 2007 for the defeat of “occupation and oppression” in Iraq, the Palestinian Territories, and Chechnya; who has preached that Jews and Christians “will be swiftly punished by Allah”; and who is a strong supporter of Muslim Brotherhood spiritual leader Yousef Qaradawi;
- Yusuf Islahi, a Central Advisory Council member of the Indian branch of Jamaat-e-Islami, who claims that Jews secretly conspired to carry out the 9/11 attacks as a means of defaming Islam;
- Abdelfattah Mourou, who co-founded the Ennahda Movement, a Tunisia-based Islamic political party deeply influenced by the late Ayatollah Khomeini and the Muslim Brotherhood; Mourou once introduced a modern, abridged edition of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the infamous anti-Semitic forgery;
- Abdul Nasir Jangda, a Texas-based Islamic cleric whose seminary was raided in 2015 by Pakistani law-enforcement due to its terrorist ties; who was described in a 2009 BBC report as being guilty of “brainwashing” children into supporting terrorism; who has allegedly defended the use of female sex slaves within Islam; and who has advocated the killing of apostates and adulterers;
- Jamal Badawi, an MAS founding member who was named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the 2008 Holy Land Foundation trial; who has described suicide bombers and Hamas terrorists as “freedom fighters” and “martyrs”; and who supports the right of men to beat their wives;
- Sheikh Kifah Mustapha, a pro-Hamas, pro-jihad imam based in Chicago;
- Hamed Ghazali, an MAS Council on Islamic Schools chairman whose work was mentioned explicitly in the Muslim Brotherhood's 1991 “Explanatory Memorandum on the General Strategic Goal for the Group in North America,” which outlined a “Civilization-Jihadist Process” aimed at “eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within”;
- Hamza Andreas Tzortzis, who served as a leading official with a Salafist organization called the Islamic Education and Research Academy; who was formerly associated with Hizb-ut-Tahrir; who once stated that apostates from Islam should be beheaded; and who believes that “we as Muslims reject the idea of freedom of speech, and even the idea of freedom”;
- Omar Suleiman, an Islamic scholar who has described homosexuality as a “disease” and a “repugnant shameless sin” deserving of the death penalty;
- Suhaib Webb, a former Islamic Society of Boston imam who has claimed that animosity toward Jews is understandable; who contends that eye contact between men and women is a sin; who describes homosexuals as cursed; and who in 2001 spoke alongside the late Al Qaeda leader Anwar Al Awlaki to raise money for the legal defense of cop-killer Jamil Abdullah Al Amin;
- Zaid Shakir, an Islamic cleric who believes that Muslims should reject “the legal and political system of America” because it is “sinful and constitutes open rebellion against Allah”; who says that the goal of American Muslims should be “the establishment of Islam and shari'ah in America”; and who says that “Zionists” and the FBI were responsible for the February 1993 World Trade Center bombing;
- Wesley Lebron, an open anti-Semite who warns Muslims “not to become like the Jews,” and who believes that the “Jews did 9/11”;
- Nouman Ali Khan, an Islamic religious educator whose extremism caused him to be banned from entering the United Kingdom and Canada;
- Muhammad Ratib al-Nabulsi, a Syrian cleric who has written that “the wicked Jews are a collection of defects and imperfections, and a hotbed of vices and evils”; and who claims that “God has made it a duty to fight them [Jews] and wage Jihad against them in the means of suicide bombings and other forms of terrorism;
- Yasmin Mogahed, an instructor at the Al Maghrib Institute;
- Ali Ardekani, who created the rap group “Soldiers of Allah,” which was directly linked to Hizb ut-Tahrir;
- Suleiman Hani, an Islamic cleric who promotes 9/11 conspiracy theories; who says that “this smokescreen of a 'war on terror' has continuously been exposed as a war on Islam multiple times”; and who says that the kuffar [unbelievers] will suffer the “abode of hellfire” due to “their evil”;
- Abdul Malik Mujahid, an imam and a vocal supporter of the late Hamas operative Muhammad Salah;
- Linda Sarsour, executive director of the Arab American Association of New York; and
- Eddie Redzovic, a YouTube/satellite interview-program host who has sympathetically interviewed Enver Masud (a 9/11 conspiracy theorist and the author of the books 9/11 Unveiled and The War on Islam).
At a January 2017 rally held by the “Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools” — a coalition of left-wing organizations and teachers’ unions — Ellison depicted school-choice initiatives like vouchers and charter schools as schemes designed to resurrect Jim Crow-style discrimination; he also likened President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, to a segregationist. Said Ellison: “Let me just take you back a little bit to the 1950s and ‘60s. When the Supreme Court ordered that public education had to get rid of segregation, there were certain districts around the country … that rather than integrate schools [used voucher programs to] shut down the whole district. When certain leaders like Betsy Devos want to say, ‘Let’s take all the public school money and give it to private schools,’ don’t you think for a minute that this plan that they’re trying to pretty up and pass on doesn’t have a whole lot to do with those plans back in the ‘50s and ‘60s?” “It’s not that they don’t like public schools,” Ellison said of school choice advocates like DeVos. “They’re fine with public schools, as long people with privilege and access are getting that education. But when the great masses … can get an education … then that’s a little bit too much democracy for some people.”
On February 25, 2017, Ellison lost to Thomas Perez by a margin of 235 votes to 200, in a race for chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Ellison's defeat came in the second round of voting, after Perez had fallen one vote short of winning in the first round. The victorious Perez promptly used his first motion as DNC chairman to appoint Ellison as his deputy chair.
In September 2017, Ellison spoke at a panel discussion about immigration reform and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), an executive action by which former president Barack Obama had permitted most DREAM Act-eligible individuals to gain temporary legal status, work permits, access to certain publicly funded social services, and protection from deportation. “[A]s many as three million DACA recipients live with someone who is a citizen of the United States,” said Ellison. “Add that to the people who work with a DACA recipient. Add that to people who are the parents of a DACA recipient. Add that to people who are parents of American citizens. You are literally talking about over 100 million Americans who are in some way — way more than 100 million, maybe well over that — who are deeply connected to people who have immigrated to the United States, some with official papers, some with not.” Reasoning, from that premise, that Americans have a moral obligation to provide “sanctuary” for illegal aliens, Ellison then likened modern-day illegals aliens living in the United States to Jews who lived in Nazi Germany during the 1930s and '40s: “If you ask yourself, 'What I would I do if I was a gentile in 1941 if my Jewish neighbors were under attack by the Nazis, would I give them sanctuary?' You might be about to find what you'd do. Will you pass that moral test, or will you fail it?”
On January 3, 2018, Ellison used his Twitter account to post a photo of himself holding his newly purchased copy of Mark Bray's recently published book, Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook, which promoted the activities of the revolutionary Marxist/anarchist militia movement known as Antifa. Ellison described it as “the book that strike [sic] fear in the heart of ... Donald Trump.”
For an overview of Ellison's congressional voting record on a number of key issues, click here.