- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 5, 2006

BALTIMORE — U.S. Senate candidate Kweisi Mfume visited one of Baltimore’s largest mosques yesterday, telling about 2,000 Muslim worshippers at Friday prayers that he doesn’t want to win the election without their support.

“I come here as your brother and your friend, raised as a Christian … who later as an adult learned the teachings, the sacredness and the vision of the sacred Koran,” said Mr. Mfume, a Democrat, speaking in a gymnasium crowded with Muslim men at the Islamic Society of Baltimore.

A few hundred Muslim women, dressed in body-length robes and head scarves, listened to Mr. Mfume’s five-minute speech in a separate room.

“I am a Christian,” said Mr. Mfume, former president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and a former congressman. “Our challenge as Christians and Muslims is to find a way to hold true to the things that we believe in and that we worship, and … find a way to work together to make a better change.”

Maqbool Patel, a respected elder at the mosque who spoke prior to Mr. Mfume, told worshippers that “if [Mr. Mfume] gets elected, he will be the representative of this group in the Congress.”

Mr. Mfume, who attends Shiloh Baptist Church in Baltimore City, is a little more than five weeks away from a hotly contested primary election in which his top competitor is Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin, Baltimore Democrat.

The winner will likely face Republican Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele, who in 2002 became the first black person elected to statewide office in Maryland. Mr. Steele is Catholic.

Mr. Cardin is Jewish, and did not attend a candidates’ forum at the mosque last weekend that Mr. Mfume attended, along with about 15 other candidates for different elected positions. Mr. Cardin did not return a telephone call seeking comment yesterday.

Mr. Mfume said he hoped to gain the support of the Muslim voting bloc.

“This does represent a bloc of Maryland voters,” he said. “They are not illegals.”

During his speech, Mr. Mfume called for an immediate cease-fire in Lebanon between Israel and Hezbollah.

Mr. Mfume said afterward he does not differ significantly with Mr. Cardin’s foreign policy stance toward Israel.

“Ben and I traveled to Israel together a couple times,” he said. “I’ve said repeatedly that I believe in a safe, free, sovereign and secure Israel, and I believe we’ve got to find simultaneously a way to be able to have in place a free and sovereign Palestinian state where there’s peaceful coexistence.”

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