- The Washington Times - Friday, December 22, 2006

A top Northern Virginia Democrat and a local Islamic leader yesterday said Rep. Virgil H. Goode Jr.’s push to tighten immigration laws to stop Muslims from being elected and American values from eroding does not cast a negative light on the Republican Party.

“I think the remarks cast a negative light on Virgil, not the Republican Party,” said Rep. James P. Moran, Virginia Democrat. “People know that people like [Rep. Thomas M.] Davis meet regularly with Muslim Americans, and I am sure other Republicans must do so as well.”

Makhdoom Zia, imam of the Mustafa Center in Annandale, agreed.

“We don’t think this is reflective of anything on the part of the Republican Party, but do realize there are a lot of people in both parties that need to learn much more about Islam,” he said. “We will stop short of calling [Mr. Goode] a bigot, but certainly encourage him to learn more about Islam.”

Mr. Moran said the combination of Mr. Goode’s remarks, Sen. George Allen’s “macaca” comment and Republican efforts to tighten immigration laws should concern the Republican Party.

“It all adds up to something that is probably somewhat harmful to Republicans,” Mr. Moran said.

Mr. Goode, a Virginia Republican who represents the state’s 5th Congressional District, found himself in the national spotlight this week after he sent a letter to constituents, criticizing Rep.-elect Keith Ellison’s decision to take his oath of office on the Koran, rather than the Bible.

Mr. Ellison, Minnesota Democrat, is the first Muslim elected to Congress. He is a Detroit native who converted to Islam in college.

In the Dec. 7 letter Mr. Goode wrote: “The Muslim Representative from Minnesota was elected by the voters of the district and if American citizens don’t wake up and adopt the Virgil Goode position of immigration there will likely be many more Muslims elected to office and demanding the use of the Koran. … I fear that in the next century will we 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.”

Republicans and Democrats said the Constitution does not require a person to pass a “religious test” to serve in public office.

House members are sworn in en masse in the chamber, and no Bible or other religious document is used for the oath. However, several incoming House members use Bibles for their individual swearing-in ceremony, which is administered by the House speaker and takes place after the official group oath.

In 1997, Sen. Gordon H. Smith, Oregon Republican, carried a volume of Mormon Scriptures that included the Bible and the Book of Mormon at his swearing-in ceremony. Others have carried the Torah.

Mr. Goode’s remarks were far different from the message Mr. Davis has been touting.

Mr. Davis, a Virginia Republican, has said Republicans must cultivate more minority candidates and spread the conservative message at “the cultural fairs, the mosques, the temples, the community centers and urban communities that we have been ignoring for too long and getting buried on election night.”

“It’s not that we have to change our message,” he told The Times earlier this month. “We have a great message. We sometimes need different messengers.”

Mr. Zia said Mr. Davis realizes that Muslims are playing a larger role in American politics. “Muslims are becoming more and more politically involved,” he said. “A big number voted in the senatorial and congressional elections.”

Mr. Zia said the Muslim community also knows that it must work to dispel the negative misconceptions that have lingered since September 11.

Robert D. Holsworth, dean of the College of Humanities and Sciences at Virginia Commonwealth University, shared Mr. Moran’s thoughts that Mr. Goode, not the Republican Party, will bear the brunt of the backlash for the congressman’s comments.

“Clearly the Democrats are going to try to utilize this as a way to call attention to what they consider to be the narrowness in the Republican Party,” he said.

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