Thursday, February 08, 2007

macon, ga mayor converts to Islam

Ellis converts to Islam, will change his name
By Matt Barnwell

Macon Mayor Jack Ellis has converted to Islam and is working to legally change his name to Hakim Mansour Ellis.

The mayor, raised as a Christian, said Thursday that he has been studying the Quran for years. He became a Sunni Muslim during a December ceremony in the country of Senegal, on the western coast of Africa. He said the religion originally was practiced by his West African ancestors before they were brought to America by slave traders.

Ellis said his decision was a personal one, though he understands his elected position breeds public interest in his choice. It was not something he decided overnight to do, he said. He will keep his last name the same at the request of two of his daughters.

"Why does one become a Christian?" the mayor said. "You do it because it feels right. It's the right thing for you to do. ... To me it's no big deal. But people like to know what you believe in. And this is what I believe in."

Ellis said he initially began reading the Quran in the 1980s before taking it up more seriously in the early '90s. He said he is attending the Macon Islamic Center, just down the road from the first Christian church he had joined in Macon.

The mayor, who has not ruled out future tries for elected office after his term expires this year, said he had not made any calculations for how his conversion would affect him politically one way or the other. He is an American first, he said, and was proud to live in a country founded on religious freedom.

Muslims as a whole should not be painted with a broad brush, he said, simply because a few radicals exist in their midst.

"If anybody wants to know about Islam, I can hold an intelligent conversation," the mayor added. "What I've found is how little we know about the religion."


Leila M. said...

WOW! Heavy stuff indeed!

Anonymous said...

I am very happy for you and I hopr that you progress in your faith. Don't back out.