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Muslim group seeks apology from Va. congressman

WASHINGTON—A Muslim group is asking Virginia Republican Rep. Virgil Goode Jr. to apologize after he told hundreds of his constituents that more Muslims will follow Rep.-elect Keith Ellison, D-Minn., to Congress if strict immigration laws aren't passed.

"The Muslim representative from Minnesota was elected by the voters of that district and if American citizens don't wake up and adopt the Virgil Goode position on immigration there will likely be many more Muslims elected to office and demanding the use of the Koran," Goode wrote.

The letter was written to constituents who contacted Goode after Ellison said he planned to bring his Quran, the Muslim holy book, with him when he takes the oath of office on Jan. 4.

In his letter, Goode said: "When I raise my hand to take the oath on Swearing In Day, I will have the Bible in my other hand. I do not subscribe to using the Koran in any way."

Goode, an attorney and former state senator who was first elected to Congress in 1996, said he wants to "stop illegal immigration totally and reduce legal immigration and end the diversity visas policy pushed hard by President Clinton and allowing many persons from the Middle East to come to this country."

"I fear that in the next century we will 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," Goode wrote.

Corey Saylor, national legislative director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said Goode's "Islamophobic remarks send a message of intolerance that is unworthy of anyone elected to public office."

CAIR officials noted that Ellison traces his family roots in the United States back to 1742.

"There can be no reasonable defense for such bigotry," Saylor said, adding that Goode should apologize.

Linwood Duncan, Goode's press secretary, said Goode sent the letter to hundreds of constituents who contacted his office after Ellison disclosed his plans. At about the same time, the head of the local Sierra Club contacted Goode about a different issue, and the letter was accidentally sent to him in response. The Sierra Club official gave a copy of the letter to a reporter.

"The congressman is not apologizing," Duncan said. "He stands by the letter."

John Cruickshank, the Sierra Club official from Earlysville, Va., said he was "deeply offended" when he received the letter from Goode. He said he's in regular contact with Goode on environmental issues.

"I wasn't sure it was authentic at first," Cruickshank said of the letter. "I was pretty shocked by it." He said he wrote a letter back to Goode, saying he had shown intolerance and disrespect for Muslims.

Ellison couldn't be reached for comment.

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This letter was sent to hundreds of constituents by the office of Republican Rep. Virgil Goode Jr. of Virginia:

Thank you for your recent communication. When I raise my hand to take the oath on Swearing In Day, I will have the Bible in my other hand. I do not subscribe to using the Koran in any way. The Muslim Representative from Minnesota was elected by the voters of that district and if American citizens don't wake up and adopt the Virgil Goode position on immigration there will likely be many more Muslims elected to office and demanding the use of the Koran. We need to stop illegal immigration totally and reduce legal immigration and end the diversity visas policy pushed hard by President Clinton and allowing many persons from the Middle East to come to this country. I fear that in the next century we will 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.

The Ten Commandments and "In God We Trust" are on the wall in my office. A Muslim student came by the office and asked why I did not have anything on my wall about the Koran. My response was clear, "As long as I have the honor of representing the citizens of the 5th District of Virginia in the United States House of Representatives, The Koran is not going to be on the wall of my office." Thank you again for your email and thoughts.

Sincerely yours,

Virgil H. Goode, Jr.

70 East Court Street

Suite 215

Rocky Mount, Virginia 24151

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(c) 2006, McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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