From Mitch Anderson at the Star Tribune:
There was no fanfare, no press release when Keith Ellison made the pilgrimage to the Muslim holy city of Mecca last week.
“We weren’t really trying to turn this into a political thing,” said the Democratic congressman from Minneapolis. “This is just me trying to be the best person I can be.”
Downplaying his role as the first member of Congress to make the Hajj, as the pilgrimage is known, Ellison called the experience “transformative.”
“It really didn’t have anything to do with me being a congressman,” said Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress.
Nonetheless, his trip attracted interest in the media and in the blogosphere. While some of the commentary has been positive, Ellison has been taken to task for missing the House vote on the auto bailout for his native Detroit. His spokesman has said Ellison hadn’t expected the lame-duck session and noted that he’d earlier told House leaders of his plans. The trip also sparked some anti-Muslim sentiment.