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Post Partisan
Posted at 03:56 PM ET, 03/10/2011

Keith Ellison: In defense of Muslim Americans

I was standing behind the press cordon at the bullying conference in the East Room of the White House when the news came over Twitter that Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) broke down in tears at the House Homeland Security Committee hearings on radicalization in the Muslim community and that community's response. Ever since the problematic committee chairman, Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), announced his controversial hearings, emotions have been running high.

As I wrote on Monday, while King is right to worry about and call attention to radicalization grabbing a foothold among some in the Muslim community, he has ignored or eviscerated evidence of other forms of Made-in-the-U.S.A. radicalism. But when you see the first Muslim American elected to Congress become overwhelmed by the task of defending the patriotism of fellow Muslims, you can see how deeply the tenor and tone of King's comments in the past and leading up to today's hearings have cut.

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....

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.

You're emotionally dead if after watching the video you feel nothing, not even a pang of empathy, for Ellison. Unfortunately, many of you won't. According to a Gallup poll released yesterday, only 53 percent of those surveyed said they believed Muslim Americans are "supportive of the United States." That's 47 percent too few, if you ask me. Questioning the patriotism of an individual is one thing. Questioning an entire class of people on the issue is wrong.

By  |  03:56 PM ET, 03/10/2011

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