Rep. Keith Ellison, one of two Muslim members of Congress, broke down in tears while delivering his testimony in defense of the Muslim community during a House Committee on Homeland Security hearing Thursday.
The Minnesota Democrat ended his testimony with the story of 23-year-old Mohammad Salman Hamdani, a Pakistani-born American who was killed in New York on Sept. 11, 2001 while trying to save victims from the World Trade Center buildings. Before his remains were found near the north tower, rumor spread that he had been involved in the killings.
“Mr. Hamdani bravely sacrificed his life to try to help others on 9/11. After the tragedy some people tried to smear his character, solely because of his Islamic faith,” Ellison said while straining to hold back tears and his voice cracking. “Some people spread false rumors and speculated that he was in league with the attackers because he was a Muslim. But it was only when his remains were identified that these lies were exposed. ”
“His life should not be identified as just a member of an ethnic group or just a member of a religion, but an American who gave everything for his fellow Americans,” he said.
The hearing, officially titled “The extent of radicalization in the American Muslim community and that community’s response,” were initiated by committee chairman New York Republican Rep. Pete King and have been criticized as a “witch hunt” in the days leading up to the meeting. King defended the hearings, saying that “to back down would be a craven surrender to political correctness.”
Thursday’s hearing is the first of a series of meetings to be held over the next few months.