Macon’s mayor converts to Islam

From the AP by way of

Mayor Jack Ellis has converted to Islam and is working to change his legal name to Hakim Mansour Ellis.

Ellis, 61, a Macon native who was raised Christian, said he became a Sunni Muslim during a December ceremony in the west African nation of Senegal.

I realize this isn’t Atlanta-specific, but Macon is just a brief trip down 75 and this is fairly big news for the state.

Only recently, Keith Ellison became the first Muslim elected to Congress, so a practicing Muslim holding a public office seems noteworthy. Additionally, I don’t know if there’s a ton of precedents for politicians changing religions while in office, but this caught my eye.

Now Macon isn’t as big a city on the national or international stage as Atlanta is, but the news got me thinking: what if the mayor of another city, like our own Shirley Franklin, made a similar conversion? What would the reaction of the populace and the punditocracy be?

For what it’s worth, religion really isn’t a major factor in who I do or don’t vote for, but this being “the South”/”the Bible belt” I can see this story dominating news cycles throughout the weekend.

So I’ll leave my earlier questions above for the commenters but also ask this: when (if ever) is a person’s religion a factor in their ability to serve their city/state/country in a position of authority within the government?

The topic has already hit the blogosphere. What do you think?

17 Comments so far

  1. John Rocker (unregistered) on February 2nd, 2007 @ 7:21 pm

    Better that he come back from Senegal a Muslim than with malaria.

  2. STEVE BEVILLE (unregistered) on February 3rd, 2007 @ 2:17 am

    Is this just “Religion as a Fashion Statement” or is there something deeper? In 2007, there are far too many politicians that want to use religion as ‘a fashion of the moment’. Far too many. It has gone way past “wearing religion on your sleeve”. I cannot and must not make a statement about the mayor. Only he can tell that story.

    However, we have to RESPECT anyone that wants to adhere to a specific (peaceful) religious belief structure. No matter the religion of the individual politician, the core agenda of any Elected Official must be to represent the people in their district – no matter the constituency’s religious majority – and tell THE PEOPLE, up front, that electing them based on who they are does not mean they will cater to selected voter’s wants and desires. It means they will do what is right for all people in their jurisdiction. That is something politicians are told not to make, all-together, public.

    As president, I promise to tell you all about me and ask you NOT to vote for me if you cannot understand that I MUST support and help everyone.

    Wow. I’m I running for office? Nope.

  3. Rashid Z. Muhammad (unregistered) on February 3rd, 2007 @ 11:11 am

    I can’t possibly imagine an American mayor – in the south no less – converting to Islam as a “fashion statement.”

  4. kirk (unregistered) on February 3rd, 2007 @ 11:32 am

    Keith Ellison and Jack Ellis have people sweating. However it’s ok for a country with 1% Jewish population to have at least seven Jewish senators, give 3 billion dollars to Israel (which has no oil), and make Americans spend trillions in defense to prevent Arabs from killin them due to their resentment of America supporting the destruction of Lebanon and the creation of the largest refugee problem in the world (the palestinian refugee crisis). Jews like Charles Krauthammer and Daniel Pipes wanted America to go to war with Iraq and now with Iran. Makes you wonder if Mel Gibson in his intoxicated stupor was showing more wisdom than the average American.

  5. Annie (unregistered) on February 3rd, 2007 @ 3:30 pm

    “when (if ever) is a person’s religion a factor in their ability to serve their city/state/country in a position of authority within the government?”

    Easy. When they attempt to impose their religious beliefs on others. What someone does in their home or place of worship is their business. What they do in a publicly-elected office is mine.

  6. Annie (unregistered) on February 3rd, 2007 @ 3:34 pm

    Oops. Just reread my comment and think it might be misconstrued. What I was trying to say was that I don’t care what religion my elected official is, until he lets that religion cloud his decision-making.

  7. abby (unregistered) on February 3rd, 2007 @ 3:54 pm

    annie, I think you hit it exactly. shouldn’t make a bit of difference.

    unfortunately, I would guess that a lot of people in our state and country don’t share that sentiment.

  8. Seth (unregistered) on February 3rd, 2007 @ 5:54 pm

    I’m with you, Annie.

    And I’m sorry to have brought out the anti-Semitism from the likes of Kirk.

  9. tiffany (unregistered) on February 3rd, 2007 @ 9:23 pm

    while the macon mayor’s conversion *shouldn’t* matter, i think it will to those voting for him. in the history of our country, we’ve had EXACTLY ONE president who wasn’t a white protestant male.

    we barely trust catholics. we half-trust jews. and we absolutely don’t trust muslims — even when they are american born converts with roots stretching back multiple generations. an atheist would probably be shot dead on the campaign trail.

    @seth … yeah kirk’s anti-*jewishness* (since arabs are also semitic) is pretty obvious. but the u.s.-israeli relationship is extraordinary. and america’s pro-israel lobby — which is heavily, but far from exclusively jewish — has an usual amount of influence on american foreign policy. check out the may/june and july/august 2006 edition of foreign policy magazine, for a discussion about it.

    kirk also has a point about us being hypocrites if we fear islam and 6th-plus-generation, american-born converts to islam, but are okay with other religious groups setting foreign and domestic policy (i.e.: evangelical christians on the subjects of israel and reproductive rights).

    agreed, however, that his phrasing makes him an a**hole …

  10. Donny (unregistered) on February 5th, 2007 @ 7:00 am

    If this guy studied history, he would know that is was Muslims that captaured and sold his ancestors INTO slavery, and it was the Christian abolitionists that freed them from it.

    Nothing good can come from Islam being the mindset of an American politician as it is 100% theocratic.

    Notice also, that Christians do not call for the beheading of a person that converts to Islam.

    Islam (Muslims) do call for and carry out the murder of those that escape Islam and choose to become Christian.

    Interesting times in which we live.

  11. Seth (unregistered) on February 5th, 2007 @ 2:17 pm

    Tiffany, great comments. Thanks for your input.

    Donny, you dodged all the questions but the comments you did make lead me to believe that you think religion is a factor for Muslims in office, but not others. Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong.

  12. james (unregistered) on February 6th, 2007 @ 9:04 am

    the relgious bigotry in this thread toward people of all faiths that have been mentioned really makes me sad.

    beyond that, ALL groups, regardless of whether they are religious or not – jewsih, christian, muslim, atheist – have the right to petition their government on matters that they feel strongly about. that is the basis of republican government. as long as what they petition for stays within the accepted guidelines of the establishment clause and the free exercise clause of the 1st amendment.

    and for the record, people other than jews and evangelical christians support a strong relationship between the us and israel for a wide variety of reasons.

    also, as people sit and reflect on the power and the influence of those of jewish faith, i ask them to remember that we are less than 70 years removed from a point at which european jews were probably 2 years at most away from being completely exterminated – every single one; man, woman, child.

    just something to think about….

  13. Seth (unregistered) on February 6th, 2007 @ 11:21 am

    I really wanted to know what folks thought about this situation in particular but also about the intersection of religious affiliation and politics in general.

    I’d love to hear more (civil) discussion.

  14. nightowl (unregistered) on February 10th, 2007 @ 11:00 pm

    It’s ironic that when the mayor of a small town in America converts to Islam, his religious beliefs come into question, but when the President of USA tells Bob Woodward in a White House interview that he listened to his Higher Father before attacking Iraq and put the lives of Americans in harm’s way, no one gets alarmed.

    It’s time that we questioned our collective hypocricy and double standard. When religion decides national policy, it’s time to get alarmed – NOT when a mayor goes back to his roots.

  15. Jimmy (unregistered) on February 11th, 2007 @ 3:05 pm

    It is ironic how seth is pulling for more american to fight for his country, israel. Seth might be an american, but his loyalty will forever be for israel. Seth also didnt mention that most muslims are arabs, who happened to be semites. Thus, calling arabs anti semite just doesnt make sense.

  16. Seth (unregistered) on February 11th, 2007 @ 5:50 pm

    WTF Jimmy?!

    Did you read my post? Did you read all my comments.

    My position on the topics you want to discuss (and not the topic at hand) is similar to yours.

    Whatever YOU think I am, that’s what I’m not!

  17. Lorraine (unregistered) on February 16th, 2007 @ 7:54 am

    Sunni Moslems along with Shiite Moslems believe that Islam should rule the body politic, that women should be subjugated, that homosexuals should be killed, that infidels should be ruthlessly subjugated and/or murdered. It is illegal in Saudi Arabia, for example, for an individual to posess a bible or for a Christian to hold a religious service, even in private. Honor killings are legal, along with stonings and the cutting off of limbs for even non violent offenses.
    It is a basic tenet of Islam that Sharia, Islamic law, must prevail so the Mayor’s statement that he believes in freedom, (as defined by the US constitution),is false. It is also a basic tenet of Islam that dishonesty in the service of that religion is permitted until the religion has become strong enough in a particular area that believers may assert themselves over all others.

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