U.S. Congressman Keith Ellison Finds Hajj A Transformative Experience

Posted on December 22, 2008

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By MITCH ANDERSON, Star Tribune

December 18, 2008

WASHINGTON – There was no fanfare, no press release when Keith
Ellison made the pilgrimage to the Muslim holy city of Mecca last week.

“We weren’t really trying to turn this into a political thing,” said
the Democratic congressman from Minneapolis. “This is just me trying to be the best person I can be.”

Downplaying his role as the first member of Congress to make the
Hajj, as the pilgrimage is known, Ellison called the experience
“transformative.” “It really didn’t have anything to do with me being a congressman,” said Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress.

Nonetheless, his trip attracted interest in the media and in the
blogosphere. While some of the commentary has been positive, Ellison
has been taken to task for missing the House vote on the auto bailout
for his native Detroit. His spokesman has said Ellison hadn’t expected
the lame-duck session and noted that he’d earlier told House leaders of his plans. The trip also sparked some anti-Muslim sentiment.

Ellison traveled to the Saudi Arabian city along with about 3
million fellow believers, a journey that every able-bodied Muslim is
obligated to make once in their lifetime.

By partaking in the Hajj — a weeklong series of rituals that honor
an ancient pilgrimage made by Abraham, a revered figure in Islam,
Judaism and Christianity — Ellison said he learned a lot about the
similarities among the followers of a religion comprising people from
many parts of the world.

“It was an amazingly transformative experience. I’ll never forget
it,” he said. “Three million people, from every inch of the globe, all
getting along together in a world where there’s a lot of turbulence.”
Along the way, Ellison said, he met a wide array of people, from the
vice president of Bosnia and a former Saudi deputy oil minister to
humble street cleaners. But on Hajj, everyone is treated the same. [more]

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