Around the Institute

Being Muslim in Congress: Rep. Keith Ellison on Race, Religion, and Lawmaking

March 27, 2014

Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) is not shy about discussing his faith, even as the first-ever Muslim elected to the US Congress. Ellison — also the first African American elected to the House from Minnesota — discussed both race and religion, as they relate to lawmaking, at a recent Aspen Institute event in Washington, DC. Two former Congressmen and current Aspen Institute directors moderated the event — Mickey Edwards, vice president and director of the Aspen Institute-Rodel Fellowship, and Dan Glickman, vice president and executive director of the Congressional Program — asking Ellison questions about his personal journey to Congress, which he writes about in his recently released memoir, “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee: My Faith, My Family, Our Future.”

When it comes to governance, the Congressman said, “I think it’s perfectly legitimate to look at the core values of my faith — which happen to be quite universal — and bring those to bear in my decision-making.” But he stops short of “prescribing unique features of my faith on others.” Below, Ellison explains how he uses his religion as a lawmaker.

Ellison defined being an American as “[being] part of a tribe or nation that isn’t about phenotype, hair texture, language…” Below, he shares his perspective on what the term “American” does not mean.

Watch the full conversation, below.