On Tuesday, we met Keith Ellison, the first Muslim in the U.S. Congress – who, among much else, has defended Louis Farrakhan, likened George W. Bush to Hitler, and compared Trump unfavorably with Kim Jong-un. As we’ve seen, Ellison, who represents Minneapolis and environs, has been quite chummy with the terrorist-linked Council on American-Islamic Relations: he’s spoken at CAIR events, and CAIR leaders have spoken at Ellison fundraisers.
But CAIR isn’t the only dicey Muslim group with which he has cozy connections. He’s addressed at least three conventions of the Hamas-linked Islamic Society of North America. In 2007 and again in 2008, he was the keynote speaker at conventions of the Muslim American Society (MAS), appearing on the second occasion with an unindicted co-conspirator in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. MAS, which has been linked to Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and Al-Qaeda, and which the United Arab Emirates has designated as a terrorist group, has called for jihadist violence and the murder of Jews, and, in its official magazine, routinely refers to suicide bombers as martyrs and to terrorists as freedom fighters. In 2016, under pressure, Ellison withdrew as speaker from a MAS event.
As we made clear on Tuesday, Ellison’s radical record was no mystery when Minneapolis voters sent him to Congress in 2006. It is hard to know what to make of the fact that they’ve sent him back five times since then, during a decade when his ties to pro-jihad groups and his hostility to Israel have been repeatedly on display. Less difficult to explain is why his fellows Democrats chose him – by unanimous acclamation – as the deputy chair of the Democratic National Committee: he represents the party’s “progressive” wing, and these days, in that party, “progressive” includes everything from socialists-bordering-on-Communists to Muslims (and friends of Islam) whose public criticisms of jihadist terrorism sound painfully tame and pro forma.
The latest cause for widespread concern about Ellison was a tweet he sent out on January 3. It read: “@MoonPalaceBooks and I just found the book that strike [sic] fear in the heart of @realDonaldTrump.” Accompanying the text was a photo of Ellison holding a volume entitled Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook by Mark Bray. Antifa, of course, is the umbrella term for a number of groups that, during the last couple of years, have joined together in violent protests against conservative, libertarian, and other non-leftist speakers at various U.S. college campuses. As the Daily Caller noted, “While the group [Antifa] claims to be anti-Fascist, they routinely shut down the speech of people they disagree with.”The Washington Times described Bray’s book as “a history of anti-fascism movements and guide to aspiring radicals.” Some reports have maintained that the book is nothing more than an objective account of its topic (Newsweek called it “politically neutral”), but this claim is nonsense: as an Associated Press report indicated, Bray “calls violence during counter-protests ‘a small though vital sliver of anti-fascist activity.’” Bray also maintains that certain ideas are undeserving of First Amendment protection.
In response to Ellison’s tweet, Alex Griswold of the Washington Free Beacon tweeted: “Um, the deputy chair of the DNC is endorsing a book that advocates for violence in the streets.” The Young America’s Foundation (YAF) chastised Ellison for his tweet, calling it an “inexplicable embrace of violent Antifa tactics.” YAF, which has been involved in arranging many of the campus speaking events that Antifa has sought to disrupt, commented: “No one knows the dangers posed by Antifa better than the conservative college students YAF works with around the country who have been threatened, stalked, and at times attacked by the radical leftists who make up its ranks. Most notably, Antifa thugs attempted to shut down YAF’s campus lecture with Ben Shapiro at the University of California, Berkeley.”
Even House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has vilified Antifa, saying last August: “You’re not talking about the far left of the Democratic Party – they’re not even Democrats. A lot of them are socialists or anarchists or whatever.” But Ellison isn’t the only high-profile establishment figure to signal his fondness for Antifa, and after his tweet went public – and garnered criticism – some mainstream publications dismissed the furor as a far-right tempest in a teapot. “The anger toward Ellison is increasingly a fringe movement,” Newsweek insisted, the implication being that any hostility directed at him is by definition racist and Islamophobic.