Discrimination Against Muslim Americans: My Final Contribution to the 9/11 Remembrances
This will be my sole remembrance of 9/11 this year, and most likely my last one period. I’m not keen on annually reliving the horror of that day ad infinitum As a matter of fact, I hadn’t intended to post anything about it this year, but I woke up at 8:43 am this morning and knew that it was within a couple of minutes of the time the first plane struck the North Tower 15 years ago. Generally speaking (religious beliefs aside) I’m not a superstitious person, but that weirded me out a bit given the current political climate.
What if it had happened today, or even worse, under a president like the current GOP’s nominee who has injected mainstream politics with the the most reprehensible, abhorrent malignant sort of poison designed to pit Americans against each other? I felt a refresher on our laws and what constitutes a Real American™ was necessary.
The text below was taken verbatim from pages 5-6 of the USA PATRIOT ACT which was signed into law on Oct 26, 2001. It is posted here as a reminder to the GOP’s freely chosen “presidential” nominee and his racist, hate-filled “basket of deplorables” of what our laws actually say. Ditto for any other bigots, regardless of who they might support.
SEC. 102. SENSE OF CONGRESS CONDEMNING DISCRIMINATION AGAINST ARAB AND MUSLIM AMERICANS.
(2) The acts of violence that have been taken against Arab and Muslim Americans since the September 11, 2001, attacks against the United States should be and are condemned by all Americans who value freedom.
(3) The concept of individual responsibility for wrongdoing is sacrosanct in American society, and applies equally to all religious, racial, and ethnic groups.
(4) When American citizens commit acts of violence against those who are, or are perceived to be, of Arab or Muslim descent, they should be punished to the full extent of the law.
(5) Muslim Americans have become so fearful of harassment that many Muslim women are changing the way they dress to avoid becoming targets.
(6) Many Arab Americans and Muslim Americans have acted heroically during the attacks on the United States, including Mohammed Salman Hamdani, a 23-year-old New Yorker of Pakistani descent, who is believed to have gone to the World Trade Center to offer rescue assistance and is now missing.
(2) any acts of violence or discrimination against any Americans be condemned; and
(3) the Nation is called upon to recognize the patriotism of fellow citizens from all ethnic, racial, and religious backgrounds.
Oh, and that item under (a)(6), Mohammad Hamdani [yes, they spelled his name wrong]? In case you’re not familiar with the story, before he was deemed a hero the NYPD & FBI were investigating him and the media began smearing him until when, in October 2001, the remains of a body along with his medical bag & ID, were found in the rubble of the North Tower. His remains were positively identified by DNA in March 2002.
Here’s part of his story, emphasis added:
Salman Hamdani was born in Karachi, Pakistan, and moved to America with his parents when he was 13 months old. He had two younger brothers, Adnaan and Zeshan, who were born in the U.S. His mother, Talat, taught English at a Queens middle school and his father, Saleem was the owner and operator of a convenience store in Brooklyn until his death on June 26, 2004.
The family lived in Bayside, where Hamdani was on the football team at Bayside High School. He majored in biochemistry at Queens College while working part-time as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT). He studied abroad in London his junior year before graduating in June 2001. In July he started employment at Rockefeller University, working as a research technician in the Protein/DNA Technology Center in association with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.
He was determined to get into medical school, but if he was not accepted he wanted to become a detective and apply his scientific knowledge toward forensics. He joined the NYPD’s cadet program in addition to working at Rockefeller University. The night before Sept. 11, he was working on an application for medical school and helping his father cope with heart disease.
Hamdani’s remains were found under the rubble of the North Tower of the World Trade Center in October 2001.
It was believed that on the morning of September 11, 2001, while on the way to work at Rockefeller University, Hamdani witnessed the smoke coming from the Twin Towers and hurried to the scene to aid victims, using his police and EMT identification to get a ride through the restricted traffic.
Hamdani was reported as missing; his family feared he had gone to the World Trade Center in an attempt to help as an EMT, but held out hope he was being secretly held by the government because of his religion. His mother wrote President George W. Bush to plead for his help. In the weeks following the attack, FBI and NYPD investigators began questioning the family about Hamdani. His mother said U.S. Rep. Gary Ackerman, whose congressional district included Queens, was among the officials who came to the family’s Bayside home to ask questions about her son, including what his motives were for becoming an NYPD cadet, which Internet chat rooms he visited and why he had been in London. They confiscated a college graduation photo of Hamdani posing with a student from Afghanistan.
Media began to report that Hamdani’s disappearance was under investigation. Reporters appeared at the family’s home, and the New York Post published a story about him entitled, “Missing or Hiding? — Mystery of NYPD Cadet from Pakistan.” Anonymous “Wanted” posters were distributed featuring Hamdani’s NYPD cadet photo and the phrase “Hold and detain. Notify: major case squad,” while some of the family’s own missing posters were torn down. […]
His family “held out hope he was being secretly held by the government because of his religion.” Let that sink in for a minute.
Apart from being Muslim, Hamdani was about as apple pie American as you can get. According to his bio over at legacy.com his younger brothers, who were born in the US, used to tease him saying, “Why don’t you go back to Pakistan?” (Gah, little brothers!)
While I realize that law enforcement was just doing their job in investigating every lead, the media clearly wasn’t. I can’t imagine how painful it was for his family to see his name dragged through the mud. I would also note that anyone who even remotely resembled him before he was proven not only innocent, but also one of the heroes who rushed to save lives that day, is probably lucky to still be alive.
There’s more to his story, including controversy over the placement of his name at the 9/11 memorial, but I’m not really in the mood to get into that today. A street in Queens was renamed in his honor in 2014, which made his mom happy.
Discrimination & scapegoating is not okay, America—no matter how angry or afraid you are. It’s EASY to show tolerance to people who agree with you or to those whom you feel are not too “different” based on their religious beliefs, gender identity, sexual preferences, skin color, ethnic origins, etc. Showing tolerance when you’re NOT comfortable is the real test of character, isn’t it? Like with free speech—we have to tolerate even that speech we vehemently disagree with. If we allow fear, hatred and suspicion to govern our responses, then we risk becoming that Nietzschean monster gazing into us from the abyss.
On that note, here’s the full text of the original PATRIOT Act: