RELIGION

Rep. Keith Ellison Is Optimistic About Americans Overcoming Stereotypes Of Muslims

A recently released Gallup poll showed that 60 percent of American adults would be willing to vote for a well-qualified Muslim candidate for president -- an important shift in cultural perceptions, but no surprise to Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), the first Muslim elected to Congress. 

When Ellison spoke with HuffPost Live's Alyona Minkovski on July 16 at the Netroots Nation conference, the congressman said he's seen that growing acceptance for Muslims firsthand in his own political life, and he's optimistic about it getting better and better.

"I think Americans are inherently fair-minded people, and basically will evaluate based on what you can do, what you're able to contribute to the common good, what kind of leader you would be," Ellison said. "So I'm not that surprised. I mean, my district in the 5th Congressional District of Minnesota probably has 3 percent Muslims in it. And, last election, I got elected [with] 72 percent of the vote."

Ellison's election in 2006 was a significant development following anti-Muslim bigotry that came about after the September 11 terrorist attacks. Ellison's faith in the American people to remain fair was tested again recently after the fatal shootings in Chattanooga, Tennessee last week by a Muslim

"One of the silver linings to this horrible tragedy is that I think that Americans are willing to distinguish between the people who they know, the ordinary citizens just trying to raise their families, and these homicidal maniacs," Ellison said of the Tennessee tragedy. 

Watch Ellison describe American's attitudes towards Muslims through personal experience in the video above, and click here for his full HuffPost Live conversation on race and Iran.

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