Oz Could Be the First Muslim U.S. Senator, but Some Muslim Americans Are Ambivalent About the Idea
A group of white-shoe Republican senators is eyeing a possible run for Minnesota’s Senate seat. The party is considering a longshot candidate from Minnesota’s second-largest city, Minneapolis.
The Minneapolis man, state Rep. Keith Downey, is white, Republican and wealthy. As Minneapolis’ highest-ranking elected official, he represents the city’s wealthy elite. He has been described as a “very powerful presence” in the city government. He has deep ties to Republicans in the state who helped pay his campaign bills. Downey, who is unmarried, has no children.
Many national Muslim leaders say Downey has an untapped star. “He has a huge, powerful network of people and is someone who has a natural gravitational pull for young people, young Muslims and other minority groups who are looking for a voice in the state of Minnesota,” said Hamza Yusuf, who heads the Minnesota-based National Council of Muslim Youth.
The group is just one of many Muslim groups with a stake in the race. Downey, who has been a congressman for only two weeks, has been endorsed by Minnesota Muslims of the Islamic Society of North America, Minnesota’s Association of Asian Pacific Americans, and the United States Council of Muslim Organizations. The Council is run by the Council of American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). The Council, which has been the major Muslim organization in Minnesota, has also given support to Downey’s GOP opponent, Tom Emmer.
“We cannot forget that Keith Downey is a strong supporter of the GOP, a strong supporter of President Trump and a supporter of Republican ideals,” CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad said. “We need a candidate who is strong on issues like immigration and is a good friend of the conservative values that the president has put forward.”
The GOP primary challenge will test Downey’s ability to unify Minnesotans. But his support will be crucial to Minnesota’s diverse religious community — which, according to Pew Research Center, is largely white and Christian. Most Muslims in the U.S. are non-white and non-Christian.
“This would have a huge impact,” said Suhail Khan, who heads the Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-MN). “In the long-run, Keith Downey’s support can