The election of tea party favorite Renee Ellmers to Congress in November was a loss for Democrats and incumbent Bob Etheridge. But some area Muslims say it's more like a sharp blow for them.
The winner of North Carolina's 2nd Congressional District seat offended many Muslims with a TV campaign ad that claimed that a planned Muslim community center near ground zero in New York City was a "victory mosque," possibly funded by terrorists.
Dismayed by the ad, individuals and groups within the Triangle's Muslim community say they are interested in pursuing a truce with Ellmers. They have been trying to reach out to her since the ad first aired in late September.
"I've called her office three times," said Khalilah Sabra, executive director of the state chapter of the Muslim American Society's immigrant justice project. "We'd like to know where she stands and what her intentions are with regard to the Muslim community."
Ellmers has not responded so far. She also did not return phone calls and e-mail requests for an interview for this story.
"Unfortunately, she is currently busy with the transition and is not available for an interview at this time," wrote Lorie Byrd, an Ellmers' staffer.
But Muslims have not given up. They hope that once Ellmers, who is Roman Catholic, meets them she might change her mind about the growing Muslim community in her district, which includes Henderson, Fayetteville, Siler City and Southeast Raleigh.
There are no reliable figures on the number of Muslims in the Triangle, and the U.S. Census is prohibited by law from asking about religious affiliation. But the number of mosques in the region has multiplied A new mosque this year in Selma is Johnston County's first.
Ellmers, a political newcomer, defeated Etheridge, who held the seat for 14 years. Etheridge enjoyed a good working relationship with Muslims.
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