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"Dedicated to exposing the lies and impeachable offenses of George W. Bush"

Muslim group asks congressman to apologize
Minneapolis Star
By Rob Hotakainen, Star Tribune
December 20, 2006

WASHINGTON - A Muslim group is asking Virginia Republican Rep. Virgil Goode Jr. to apologize after he told hundreds of his constituents that more Muslims will follow Rep.-elect Keith Ellison, D-Minn., to Congress if strict immigration laws are not passed.

"The Muslim representative from Minnesota was elected by the voters of that district, and if American citizens don't wake up and adopt the Virgil Goode position on immigration there will likely be many more Muslims elected to office and demanding the use of the Koran," Goode wrote.

The letter was written in response to constituents who contacted Goode after Ellison said he planned to bring his Qur'an with him when he takes the oath of office on Jan. 4.

In his letter, Goode said: "When I raise my hand to take the oath on Swearing In Day, I will have the Bible in my other hand. I do not subscribe to using the Koran in any way."

Goode, an attorney and former state senator who was first elected to Congress in 1996, said he wants to "stop illegal immigration totally and reduce legal immigration and end the diversity visas policy pushed hard by President Clinton and allowing many persons from the Middle East to come to this country.

"I fear that in the next century we will have many more Muslims in the United States if we do not adopt the strict immigration policies that I believe are necessary to preserve the values and beliefs traditional to the United States of America and to prevent our resources from being swamped," Goode wrote.

Corey Saylor, national legislative director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), said Goode's "Islamophobic remarks send a message of intolerance that is unworthy of anyone elected to public office."

Ellison, who will replace the retiring Democratic Rep. Martin Sabo, did not return phone calls. CAIR officials noted that Ellison traces his family roots in the United States back to 1742. He is a native of Detroit.

Saylor said Goode should apologize, and he offered to arrange a meeting with Goode and Muslims in his district.

Linwood Duncan, Goode's press secretary, said that Goode sent the letter to hundreds of constituents who contacted his office after Ellison disclosed his plans. At about the same time, the head of the local Sierra Club contacted Goode about a different issue, and the letter was accidentally sent to him in response. The Sierra Club official gave a copy of the letter to a reporter.

"The congressman is not apologizing," Duncan said. "He stands by the letter."

John Cruickshank, the Sierra Club official from Earlysville, Va., said he was "deeply offended" when he received the letter from Goode. He said he's in regular contact with Goode on environmental issues.

Goode's letter drew a response from Democratic Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. of New Jersey, who wrote a letter to Goode saying he took his remarks as "personally offensive."I have learned a great deal from the Muslim community and have made it one of my priorities to educate other Americans about the common misconceptions regarding the peaceful faith of Islam," Pascrell wrote.

"There are many valid policy questions regarding immigration that should be addressed by Congress; however, promoting a fear and disrespect of Muslims is not only wrongheaded, but it is reckless. Muslim-Americans do not threaten our American values and traditions, in fact they only add to them."

Rob Hotakainen is a correspondent in the Star Tribune Washington Bureau: 202-383-0009

Rob Hotakainen • rhotakainen@startribune.com

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