by Talat Hamdani
March 4th, 2011
Editor: This piece originally appeared on CNN’s website. Click here to view it there.
I was appalled when I learned that House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Peter King planned to hold hearings on the threat of homegrown Islamic terrorism. (The hearings are scheduled for next week.)
Once again, I realized that in the continuing discussion of how to secure our country against future attacks, American Muslims would have to defend themselves against the broad stereotypes that have become embedded in our collective psyche since 9/11.
I am, as much as anyone else in America, acutely aware of the need to prevent future attacks. My American Muslim son Salman Hamdani was among the nearly 3,000 Americans of diverse ethnicities, faiths and political perspectives who died in those terrorist attacks.
Salman was a paramedic and a New York Police Department cadet who died trying to save his fellow Americans. He did not stop to think about the faith of the people he was trying to rescue. Instead, like scores of other first responders, he acted to save them. Despite his noble instincts, the tabloid media initially suggested that because of his Pakistani-American heritage, he might have been involved with the attacks.
My grief was compounded by the suspicions that clouded Salman’s name and the suggestion that his faith — my faith — not the acts of 19 murderers, was somehow responsible.
Now, nearly a decade later, the American Muslim community has been singled out for scrutiny by Rep. King on the flimsy theory that American Muslims do not cooperate with law enforcement. This perspective is disputed by law enforcement and counter-terrorism experts ranging from the sheriff of Los Angeles County to the former director of transnational threats at the National Security Council.
In fact, a recent study by a research group affiliated with Duke University found that 48 of the 120 Muslims suspected of plotting domestic terrorist attacks since September 11, 2001, were turned in by fellow Muslims. These include parents, mosque members and even a Facebook friend.
Make no mistake: As a mother who lost a son, I am aware of the need to ensure that our country is secure, that an event like 9/11 never happens again, and that other mothers do not have to bury their sons. And I understand that it is the job of our elected officials to ensure that we are safe. But I reject the notion that it is mainly Muslims in America who pose a threat to our security. Domestic terrorism stalked America before 9/11, and it continues to come in all forms.
That is why I support the call from Rep. King’s fellow congressmen and a coalition of Muslim, civil rights and interfaith groups to expand the hearings to include a consideration of extremists of all kinds, not just those who are Muslim.
History teaches that extremism is not a feature of any one ideology, and certainly should not be used to single out and discriminate against an entire community. This is my son Salman’s America, too.
It is our duty as American citizens to honor his sacrifice and that of all those people who died that day by making sure that while we strive to keep this nation safe, we do not compromise the values of tolerance and fair play.
As one of those who paid the ultimate price on September 11, I believe that the healing we must do as family members and as a nation involves moving beyond our fears and seeking truth and justice. I urge Rep. King to hold fair and objective hearings that cover the full scope of potential threats to our country.