During his early morning testimony Thursday, Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., recited the tragic story of 23-year-old Mohammed Salman Hamdani, a brave first responder and New York City Police cadet who rushed to aid his fellow countrymen as the Twin Towers burned on September 11, 2001. Breaking into tears, Ellison decried "some people"' who "tried to smear [Hamdani's] 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.
Ellison is right: Hamdani died a hero and should be remembered as such. But in using Hamdani's story to make a statement condemning Thursday's hearings on Muslim radicalization, National Review's Matthew Shaffer points out how Ellison only viewed him as a political prop.
While Ellison expressed disgust over "rumors" about Hamdani being associated with terrorists following 9/11, these are the facts:
Web pages that do source the claim that Hamndani was “widely accused” of being a terrorist typically trace back to a single report from the New York Post, dated Oct. 12, 2001, and titled “Missing — or Hiding? Mystery of NYPD Cadet from Pakistan.” The piece has been taken offline, but its content is preserved elsewhere. Here’s what the New York Post wrote:
His family distributed missing-person fliers in the fear that the 23-year-old, who is trained as an emergency medical technician, went instead to the World Trade Center to help and was killed.
But investigators for the FBI and NYPD have since questioned the family about which Internet chat rooms he visited and if he was political.
Hamdani, a graduate of Queens College with a biochemistry degree, had been in the NYPD cadet program for three years. He became “inactive” because he needed to work full time, his mother said.
Police sources said he hadn’t been to work at the NYPD since April, but he still carried official identification.
One source told the Post: “That tells me they’re not looking for this guy at the bottom of the rubble. The thing that bothers me is, if he is up to some tricks, he can walk past anybody [using the ID card].”
Hamdani’s mother, who has been in the United States for two decades, denied her son was political or a religious fundamentalist. Cops at the Midtown Tunnel reported spotting someone who looked like Hamdani yesterday morning.
So the Post reported 1) that Hamdani’s family believed he died in the WTC attacks, 2) that the FBI asked Hamdani’s mother a few background questions after a mistaken sighting, and 3) that an unnamed source felt such questioning implied guilt. No doubt, that was hard on the grieving mother. But frankly, this — a mistaken sighting, and very preliminary investigations of many people, most of whom turn out to be innocent — is the kind of thing that inevitably happens after a major terrorist attack.
Contrary to Ellison's account of bigoted Islamophobic hatred, a grateful nation honored Hamdani for his courageous spirit and unwavering patriotism. Just six weeks after the 9/11 attacks, he was singled out by the United States Congress and President George W. Bush as a hero memorialized in the text of the USA Patriot Act:
Many Arab Americans and Muslim Americans have acted heroically during the attacks on the United States, including Mohammed Salman Hamdani, a 23-year-old New Yorker of Pakistani descent, who is believed to have gone to the World Trade Center to offer rescue assistance and is now missing.
Additionally, as Shaffer notes, Hamdani "was eulogized by the New York Times, had scholarship funds named after him, was honored by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly (both of whom went barefoot to honor Muslim practice) at his funeral, and has been celebrated over and over again by the media."
"If Hamdani was singled out for his faith, it would appear he was singled out for especially high honors," Shaffer concludes. "Rather than suffering from apocryphal American anti-Muslim bigotry, Salman Hamdani appears to have benefited from America's eager inclusiveness.
"Americans have long seen Mohammed Salman Hamdani as a hero. Too bad Representative Ellison saw him only as a prop."