The controversial hearings helmed by Long Island congressman Peter King on the threat of homegrown Islamic terror, and the allegedly lacking cooperation from Muslim-American communities, opened this morning with a moving statement by Minnesota's Keith Ellison, one of two Muslims currently serving in Congress. Ellison who told New York's Robert Kolker that the hearing was like "saying we’re going to deal with drugs, but we’re only going to deal with black drug dealers was composed as he warned against "ascribing evil acts of a few individuals to an entire community" and noted that tips from Muslim-Americans have helped to foil 40 percent of terror plots since 9/11. But it was near the end of his remarks, when Ellison told the story of Mohammad Salman Hamdani, a Pakistani-born American citizen who drove an ambulance part-time and worked as a research assistant, that Ellison's emotions overwhelmed him. As Ellison recounted, some people initially suggested, after Hamdani disappeared on 9/11, that he had been involved in the attacks. It was only later that his remains were discovered in the rubble of the World Trade Center. He had seen the smoke that morning and rushed to help.
It's obvious that Ellison's tears were sincere. But they also may turn out to be quite beneficial for him and the cause he's promoting. In the news coverage of today's hearings, unless something else completely unforeseen happens (and congressional hearings are not usually the most exciting events), Ellison's weeping as he recounts the story of a 9/11 hero is bound to generate the most attention. Now, instead of hearing about the threat posed by Muslim-Americans, many people will be exposed to Hamdani's powerful story and perhaps learn for the first time that we even have a Muslim serving in Congress.
Related: Peter King's Muslim Problem