To: Congressman Keith Ellison, Fifth District, Minnesota
From: Interested Americans
Re: Your great opportunity
You have been elected to serve the Fifth District of Minnesota in the United States House of Representatives. This is a crucially important opportunity, not only for all of your district’s constituents, but also for Muslims in America — even Muslims worldwide, who watch American politics with close attention.
You are in an unprecedented position: the political point man for Islam in this country. As our only elected Muslim in national office, you have the heavy burden and the unique responsibility to aid the cause of Islam in its endeavor to become the religion of conciliation.
There is no doubt that you, as our sole Muslim member of Congress, could bring to bear a high level of influence on Iran and other Muslim countries, in order to make the situation for women in these countries more humane.
If you were to use your bully pulpit to speak out about the plight of women under sharia law — especially in Iran and Pakistan — you would be a powerful influence for good.
Your wife is a professional, a teacher of mathematics. She has obviously been a helpmeet and an equal in your rise to national office. To make the politics into the personal, consider the alternative fate of your wife, her career, and her life, were she living in a Muslim theocracy such as Iran. As you well know, her existence would be precarious and her career non-existent. You have only to question former professional women like Iranian expatriate Manda Zand Ervin, the founder and president of the Alliance of Iranian Women, to know that your family’s Muslim identity and security in America do not flow from the ideas laid down by the Muslim Brotherhood. Instead, your family’s safety originates here, in your native country, where all women have the access to the same opportunities your wife has used to educate herself and to contribute to the commonweal of Minnesota and of the United States.
Muslim women in other countries live under the yoke of a draconian hatred towards women qua women. Their original sin lies in being born female, and thus being worth half the value of a man.
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This law is not something your leader in the House, Nancy Pelosi, would understand or condone.
Thus, Rep. Ellison, your public stance on the predicament of Muslim women is vital to the progress of reforming the view many Americans have of Islam at the moment. The news from Afghanistan and Iran is unutterably sad: the number of women choosing suicide over the prospect of living under sharia is increasing dramatically. A nine-year-old girl chose self-immolation rather than face a forced marriage that meant a lifetime of virtual slavery. Can you imagine your child faced with such a choice?
Many women in Iran are in prison awaiting execution by stoning or hanging for the crime of being raped. Often these are rural women who do not speak Farsi, and have been inadequately represented in court. Some of them had to have their sentences explained to them after the fact.
You have emphasized your Muslim beliefs by choosing to take your oath of office using the Koran. With this public emphasis on your religion, it is imperative that you follow through on this symbolism with vital action on behalf of Muslim women everywhere.
Why not begin in Iran, where women like and support our country, where people have begged the United States to intervene on behalf of the homeless children and the underage sex slaves who are sold into lives of degradation in other Muslim countries?
With many others, I await your response to your historic calling.
Gates of Vienna
Any citizens who wish to encourage Rep. Ellison may contact his Minnesota district office here:
The Hon. Keith Ellison
250 Marquette Avenue, Suite 225
Minneapolis, Minnesota 55401
Phone: (612) 664-8000
Fax: (612) 664-8004
Mail to Congressman at their offices in Washington is slowed considerably due to the anthrax quarantine. However, phone calls and faxes are effective; use the numbers below.
Phone: (202) 225-4755
Fax: (202) 225-4886
Update: I should have mentioned that this open letter is part of a group effort. The idea for it came from No Apology, to whom we owe a hat tip.