Rep. Ellison Makes Traditional Pilgrimage to Mecca

Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) made a trip to Mecca last week, making the religious pilgrimage to fulfill one of the key pillars of his Muslim faith.

Ellison made the trip, called the "Hajj," to Saudi Arabia as he is obligated to do once in his lifetime, per Islamic doctrine.

"We weren't really trying to turn this into a political thing," Ellison told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. "This is just me trying to be the best person I can be."

The pilgrimage, which draws several million religious pilgrims per year, comes during the 12th month on the Islamic calendar, which fell last week. It is one of the five pillars of Islam; all able-bodied Muslims who can afford to make the trip must do so once in their lifetime.

Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress, converted to Islam from Catholicism at the age of 19.

"It was an amazingly transformative experience. I'll never forget it," Ellison told the paper. "Three million people, from every inch of the globe, all getting along together in a world where there's a lot of turbulence."