The Ellison elision

As a close observer of Minnesota Fifth District Rep. Keith Ellison, I bought and read his new memoir cum manifesto — My Country, ‘Tis of Thee: My Faith, My Family, Our Future — looking for enlightenment on two subjects in particular. First, I hoped Ellison would explain what branch of Islam comports with the platform of the Democratic Party on the social issues including abortion, gay rights and all the rest. Second, I hoped Ellison would account for his long involvement with the Nation of Islam.

I found that the book offered surprises on both counts. I present my findings in the article “The Ellison elision,” in the new issue of the Weekly Standard out today. It opens:

Minnesota’s Keith Ellison made history as the first Muslim elected to Congress. He is a former member and local leader of the Nation of Islam who first ran for office as a Democrat in 1998 under the pseudonym Keith Ellison-Muhammad. He’s a voluble striver and a hustler emitting Marxist claptrap with an Islamic twist. He now puts these qualities on display in his engaging new memoir-cum-manifesto, My Country, ’Tis of Thee: My Faith, My Family, Our Future (Karen Hunter Publishing/Gallery Books, $25.00).

The real drama in the book plays out under the surface, out of the reader’s view. Ellison baldly revises his life to remove his most dramatic transformation, from a local leader and advocate of the Nation of Islam to a relentless critic of it (as he appears in the book, as though it were ever thus). Moreover, Ellison’s political manifesto has all the charms of a compilation of New York Times editorials. If you want to understand where the Democratic party is headed, however, Ellison’s manifesto warrants a look all by itself. Holding positions of leadership in the Congressional Progressive Caucus (he is co-chair) and in the House Democratic Caucus (he is chief deputy whip), Ellison embodies the strange alliance of radical Islam and the American left.

Here is my take on Ellison’s exploration of his Muslim faith:

What kind of Muslim is he? Ellison expressly addresses the question. He depicts himself as a live-and-let-live kind of Muslim. “If I were Jewish, I would probably be a reform Jew. If I were Christian, I would be one of those come-as-you-are nondenominational Christians,” he confides. “Faith is not about expressing what I believe so that the world can see I’m faithful. I don’t believe in following a strict set of rules to prove my love for God or to prove my faith.” According to Ellison, “In Islam, your religion is what you make of it.”

As for the vexed question of gay marriage, Ellison concedes that “I get Muslims who come up to me and ask, ‘Brother Keith, how can you be in favor of gay marriage?’ ” Brother Keith explains: “I’m in favor of civil rights for all. I’m in favor of freedom.”

Those of us wondering about the reconciliation of his faith with his politics now have the answer. Which branch of Islam comports with the agenda of the Democratic party on social issues? Ellison reveals it to be the Ellison branch of Islam.

Whole thing here. As always, I ask interested readers to check it out.