Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Obama Wins Prominent U.S. Muslims' Endorsements

The Honourable Al-Imam Warith Deen Muhammad, son of the late Nation of Islam leader Elijah Muhammad, has endorsed Barack Obama for president.

"He is the best candidate for the presidency," Muhammad said, according to the Muslim Americans for Obama website.

Born Wallace D. Muhammad, he was installed as Supreme Leader of the Nation of Islam in 1975, and quickly embarked on a path of moderation that brought the sect closer to orthodox Sunni Islam. He renamed the organization several times, settling eventually on the Muslim American Society. He changed the spelling of his name to Mohammed, and later changed his full name and honorific.

A splinter group under Louis Farrakhan rejected Muhammad and left to build their own sect, which reclaimed the name Nation of Islam. Farrakhan and Muhammad reconciled in 2000, after nearly a quarter of a century estranged.

"Dear Muslim brothers and sisters," he declared at the annual Savior's Day convention, "it is not difficult for Minister Farrakhan and Wallace D. Mohammed to embrace each other. That's easy for us. When I first met him in the early '50s, I liked him on first sight, and I became his friend and his brother. And I have not stopped being his friend and his brother. Maybe he has not understood, but I have always been his friend and his brother."

Rep. Keith Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress, endorsed Obama about a year ago.

"He speaks with a unifying spirit," Ellison said of Obama. He said he supports "Obama's message of an open and fair economy, a balanced prosperity and clear opposition to the war in Iraq."

Ellison has called himself, variously, Keith E. Hakim, Keith X. Ellison and Keith Ellison-Muhammad. Although he used to be a Nation of Islam apologist, he has since denounced Farrakhan's anti-Semitism, and enjoyed some Jewish support in his recent Congressional campaign. He identifies himself as an orthodox Muslim.

Although Ellison's congressional district is Minneapolis, he did much of his fundraising among Florida Muslim members of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Sen. Dick Durbin (D.-IL) have acccused of "ties to terrorism," possibly Hamas and Hezbollah.

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