WASHINGTON, D.C. — Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison delivered a tearful remembrance of a Muslim-American who rushed into the World Trade Center site on September 11 to close his testimony before the Homeland Security Committee this morning.
Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress, has been an outspoken opponent of Peter King’s decision to restrict the hearings to a single religious group, likening it to an inquiry on drug dealers that would focus only on black drug dealers.
In his testimony, Ellison argued that the hearing might make the country less safe, and that the problem was with individual extremists, not with the broader Muslim-American community.
“The best defense against extremist ideologies is social inclusion and civic engagement,” Ellison said.
He was joined by the mother of Mohammed Salman Hamdani, and closed by telling the story of her son’s death on September 11. Ellison’s voice was halting as he told the story of Hamdani, a 23 year old paramedic from Queens.
If the response in the hearing room was any indication, it’s likely to be one of the enduring images from today’s inquiry. Ellison could barely be heard over the chorus of flashbulbs.
Here is his remembrance, and the full text is here.
Let me close with a story, but remember that it’s only one of many American stories that could be told. Mohammed Salman Hamdani was a 23-year-old paramedic, a New York City police cadet and a Muslim American. He was one of those brave first responders who tragically lost their lives in the 9/11 terrorist attacks almost a decade ago. As The New York Times eulogized, “He wanted to be seen as an all-American kid. He wore No. 79 on the high school football team in Bayside, Queens, where he lived, and he was called Sal by his friends… He became a research assistant at Rockefeller University and drove an ambulance part-time. One Christmas, he sang in Handel’s Messiah in Queens. He saw all the Star Wars movies, and it was well known that his new Honda was the one with “Yung Jedi” license plates.
Mr. Hamdani bravely sacrificed his life to try and help others on 9/11. After the tragedy some people tried to smear his character solely because of his Islamic faith. Some people spread false rumors and speculated that he was in league with the attackers only because he was Muslim. It was only when his remains were identified that these lies were fully exposed.
Mohammed Salman Hamdani was a fellow American who gave his life for other Americans. His life should not be defined as a member of an ethnic group or a member of a religion, but as an American who gave everything for his fellow citizens.