Representative-elect Keith Ellison, the first Muslim ever elected to Congress, kicked off his upcoming first term Tuesday night with a send-off at a union hall in this Minneapolis suburb.
"I'm just excited and looking forward to serving this great country of ours," said Ellison, a Democrat and former state lawmaker elected to represent a district that includes Minneapolis.
Ellison has faced some criticism for his intention to use a Quran during swearing-in ceremonies in Washington, D.C.
One critic, U.S. Rep. Virgil Goode, R-Va., questioned Ellison's choice of the Muslim holy book over the Bible and said more Muslims would be elected to office unless immigration was limited.
Ellison has mostly brushed aside such remarks and said Tuesday that a majority of the constituents who have contacted his office about the matter are "overwhelmingly supportive of religious tolerance."
Asked whether he thought the controversy would blow over or follow him during his term, he said with a laugh, "I think it will blow over by next week!"
Ellison's religion came up Tuesday on CNN's Headline Prime show. Host Glenn Beck said it would not only be appropriate for Ellison to use the Quran, "it is quintessentially American."
"This issue is exactly why we have freedom of religion in America," he said.
Ellison will serve on the Financial Services Committee, where he said he intends to work for "relief and justice for the middle-class" on such issues as wages and housing.
(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)