US Muslim lawmaker weeps during testimony
WASHINGTON - Representative Keith Ellison, the first Muslim elected to the US Congress, broke down in tears Thursday while offering emotional testimony in a controversial hearing on homegrown Islamic terrorism.
Democrat Ellison had been asked by Representative Peter King, the Republican who chairs the House Homeland Security Committee, to testify despite his clear opposition to King's controversial investigation of the radicalization of American Muslims nearly a decade after the 9/11 attacks.
"Violent extremism is a serious concern to all Americans... but this committee's approach in this particular subject is contrary to American values," Ellison said.
He introduced the mother of Mohammad Salman Hamdani, a 23-year-old paramedic who died in the attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, in his effort to show that Muslims were part of the broad tapestry of loyal and patriotic Americans.
But his composure wavered as he began to tell story of Hamdani, who in his youth "wanted to be seen as an all-American kid."
"He was one of those brave first responders who tragically lost his life in 9/11 terrorist attacks almost a decade ago," a weeping Ellison said, but in the aftermath of the attacks, rumors were spread that Hamdani had been in collusion with the attackers.
"His life should not be identified as just a member of an ethnic group or just a member of a religion, but as an American who gave everything for his fellow Americans."
Ellison, choking on tears and at times burying his face in his statement, finished his testimony and quickly rushed out of the room, as a somber King and other committee members looked on.
King has alarmed Muslim organizations and rights groups who refute his claims that Muslim community leaders are not doing enough to stop the radicalization of American Muslims.
In his opening statement King branded the strongest criticism of his approach, including those who warned he is trafficking in fear-mongering, as "paroxysms of rage and hysteria."