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By Eboo Patel and Samantha Kirby.
He cried because an American hero, Salman Hamdani, was suspected as a terrorist because of the simple fact of his faith. Hamdani was a first responder in New York on September 11th and sacrificed his life for his fellow Americans. His actions were those of a hero, but in the days after 9/11, you couldn’t say “Muslim” without having it followed by “terrorist.”
Keith Ellison cried because he is a father. Because he is concerned that when people hear that his kids are Muslim, they connect it automatically to the term “terrorist.”
Keith Ellison cried because he is an American congressperson. Because he doesn’t want any community – whether Catholics in the 1880s or Japanese Americans and Jews in the 1940s – to have a reputation in the public imagination as traitors or terrorists because of their identity.
Los Angeles county Sheriff Leroy Baca testified that we are safer when we work together, not when we are divided. He said that, “Our enemies cannot survive when we respond together.” We don’t know about you, but when someone who served in the United States Marine Corps Reserves and now runs the largest sheriff’s department in the world says that, we listen.
Congressman Ellison echoed this when he said, “The best defense against extreme ideologies is social inclusion and civic engagement.”
There are thousands of wonderful things happening right now that do just this. One of the best emails we saw this week was from the Rabbi at Northwestern University, who sent over a petition he was circling around to rabbis and other Jewish leaders. Part of it said:
“The values of Torah and the virtues of the American tradition demand that we raise our voices against the fear-mongering and hate that have been directed at our fellow citizens…Invoking our shared Abrahamic heritage and our commitment to American values, we write today as leaders of the American Jewish community to affirm, in unequivocal terms, that we stand in solidarity with American Muslims.”
There are many more letters and petitions we haven’t read. In fact during the hearings, Rep. Loretta Sanchez submitted dozens of such letters from various groups to be included in the testimony.
Right now there’s a lot of people calling King the new McCarthy and the hearings the new witch-hunt. Frankly we’re not concerned with how King ends up in the history books.
We care more about how America lives out its promise, and the way Americans responded – through campaigns like “WhatUnitesUs” on twitter and the “Today, I am Muslim too” rally in New York – shows us who this country really is.
The wonderful thing about America is when somebody calls a hearing, we don’t have to be in the room to offer our own testimony.