Guilt by association: Powerline on Ellison

Tolerance isn't something you're likely to find at Powerline. When Army Capt. James Yee, a convert to Islam and former chaplain for "enemy combatants" at Guantanamo Bay, was arrested in 2003 on espionage charges, the blog dedicated two posts to the news. The first implied a link to Hitler's ideology: "[Yee] has said that Islam is a religion of peace and the term 'jihad' merely means 'to struggle.' Sort of like Kampf, I guess." Its author, John Hinderaker, added, "This story highlights the danger, obviously, of giving terrorists access to outsiders like clerics and lawyers"--a surprising view, considering Hinderaker's day job as an attorney. There's no hint of innocent-until-proven-guilty in his next post either, where he writes of "the treasonous James Yee, who was supplied with an endless supply of Muslim materials to facilitate his ministering to (or conspiring with) the terrorists at Guantanamo Bay." Had there been a third post, it should've been an apology--after being arrested, manacled, and held in solitary confinement for 76 days, all charges against Yee were dropped.

As Yee visits the Twin Cities to promote his book at an annual Muslim conference this week and attend an event for Muslim business leaders last Friday, it seems Powerline might again be leveling a guilt-by-association attack on another Muslim-American: 5th Congressional District candidate Keith Ellison.

At a fundraiser in Northeast Minneapolis Friday, Ellison reported just coming from an event where "nearly $50,000" was raised. Put on by members of the Muslim business group the United Chamber of Commerce, the event's attendees included Nahid Awad, head of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), which Hinderaker calls the voice of "the 'Wahhabi lobby' and [...] a front for supporters of Islamist terrorism." Dubbing Awad Ellison's "special friend," a characterization Ellison's campaign manager Dave Colling denies, Hinderaker lists Awad's past statements of "enthusiasm" for Hamas while leaving out the fact that Awad shared a podium with George W. Bush at the Washington Islamic Center following 9/11. Powerline doesn't surmise other possible reasons why Ellison might've been at the affair: running to become the country's first Muslim congressperson, Ellison's ties with this community will be key to his successes; further, as a current representative of North Minneapolis, an area with a sizable Muslim population (and, some say, where a large number of crime-attracting corner stores are owned by Muslims), he was convening with constituents. Also, in the wake of Thursday's arson at a South Minneapolis mosque, Ellison's presence was likely important to that community. (He told supporters at the Northeast fundraiser: "People in our government need to model tolerance… When a mosque or a synagogue or a church is desecrated, we must say, no, people’s houses of worship are sacred and we won’t tolerate it.")

Hinderaker does raise a legitimate question, though, about Awad's visit: why didn't Ellison's campaign list the fundraiser along with others that day on its website? With high-profile visitors like Yee and Awad, it seems an oddly secretive choice. Colling from Ellison's campaign says, "It's a fundraiser and 99.9% aren't publicized to the press." He characterized the event as one where Ellison was simply invited to speak; it wasn't organized by Ellison's campaign: "The UCC does not endorse him--they can't endorse him as a group--but their members put this event together." When I asked him about why it's important for Ellison to reach out to the Islamic business community--admittedly, a whiffleball question--Colling replied, "I disagree with your point that he's reaching out to them. It's not like with labor, where we sat down with them and asked for an endorsement."

Stay tuned for more coverage on the United Chamber of Commerce event and this week's Islamic conference by Minnesota Monitor blogger Abdi Aynte.


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