In a statement provided to TPM on Wednesday, Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) responded to crticism voiced by Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC) toward a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) that enabled more than 800 libraries nationwide, including one at a community college in North Carolina, to acquire books on Islam and Muslim culture.
Jones denounced the use of federal dollars "to promote the culture of Islamic civilizations" and expressed concern that the grant was unfair to Christians. But the 10-term Republican representative rebutted the notion that he harbors an anti-Islam prejudice by pointing to his friendship with Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress.
Ellison also called Jones a "friend" in the statement, while emphasizing the importance in having the "freedom to learn about any culture."
“I do plan on talking to my friend Walter Jones. Americans should have the freedom to learn about any culture and specifically excluding any religion is Un-American. Just as we have access to books on Christianity, Judaism, and atheism in our public libraries now, Americans should have access to books about Muslim culture. More than anything, free speech gives us the freedom to learn about beliefs and religions other than our own.”