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Posted at 3:56 PM ET, 03/10/2011

Keith Ellison: In defense of Muslim Americans

By Jonathan Capehart

I was standing behind the press cordon at the bullying conference in the East Room of the White House when the news came over Twitter that Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) broke down in tears at the House Homeland Security Committee hearings on radicalization in the Muslim community and that community's response. Ever since the problematic committee chairman, Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), announced his controversial hearings, emotions have been running high.

As I wrote on Monday, while King is right to worry about and call attention to radicalization grabbing a foothold among some in the Muslim community, he has ignored or eviscerated evidence of other forms of Made-in-the-U.S.A. radicalism. But when you see the first Muslim American elected to Congress become overwhelmed by the task of defending the patriotism of fellow Muslims, you can see how deeply the tenor and tone of King's comments in the past and leading up to today's hearings have cut.

Let me close with a story, but remember that it's only one of many American stories that could be told. Mohammed Salman Hamdani was a 23-year-old paramedic, a New York City police cadet and a Muslim American. He was one of those brave first responders who tragically lost their lives in the 9/11 terrorist attacks almost a decade ago....

After the tragedy, some people tried to smear his character solely because of his Islamic faith. Some people spread false rumors and speculated that he was in league with the attackers only because he was Muslim. It was only when his remains were identified that these lies were fully exposed. Mohammed Salman Hamdani was a fellow American who gave his life for other Americans. His life should not be defined as a member of an ethnic group or a member of a religion, but as an American who gave everything for his fellow citizens.

You're emotionally dead if after watching the video you feel nothing, not even a pang of empathy, for Ellison. Unfortunately, many of you won't. According to a Gallup poll released yesterday, only 53 percent of those surveyed said they believed Muslim Americans are "supportive of the United States." That's 47 percent too few, if you ask me. Questioning the patriotism of an individual is one thing. Questioning an entire class of people on the issue is wrong.

By Jonathan Capehart  | March 10, 2011; 3:56 PM ET
Categories:  Capehart  | Tags:  Jonathan Capehart  
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I’m not emotionally dead. I’m an African, descendent of enslaved Africans in this country and I’m terribly perplexed at how anyone would be surprised at the treatment of Muslims. All I have to say Is, Muslims, welcome to America. You are now experiencing what Africans (Blacks) has ALWAYS experienced. And to the Honorable Mr Ellison, You should know by now, your tears will not penetrate the conscious of these people.
What we need is new paradigm shift, not your tears. For starters, let’s get rid of organized religions all together. It are the root of all irrational thought….
Peace on this good Earth!

Posted by: tgreen1 | March 10, 2011 4:22 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Ellison gave a bravura performance today. He was well-coached, and fairly believable. I wonder how long he had to practice to get the tears flowing.

Theater, nothing more.

Posted by: Physical_Security_Spec | March 10, 2011 4:26 PM | Report abuse

It's the Republican's country now...we are all just trying to survive it.

Posted by: danw1 | March 10, 2011 4:31 PM | Report abuse

Physical_Security_Spec wrote:
"Mr. Ellison gave a bravura performance today. He was well-coached, and fairly believable. I wonder how long he had to practice to get the tears flowing.

Theater, nothing more."
Perhaps. I didn't watch it. For the sake of argument only (and I'll let others assess Ellison's appearance), let's concede that you're correct about Rep. Ellison delivering a "performance" that YOU deem insincere.

So what we have then, is a PLAY WITHIN A PLAY, because the greatest instance of political theater here is the hearings themselves. If Rep. King were even a bit serious about getting to the root of the problem, he wouldn't be having this dog and pony show. Closed-door sessions with FBI, DHS, Muslim community leaders, perhaps, but not THIS charade.

Guess you couldn't see the forest because there were too many damned trees.

Posted by: post_reader_in_wv | March 10, 2011 4:38 PM | Report abuse

Wow - What a show Keith Ellison put on today.
He belongs on TV and in front of the media!
Hooray Keith - Wow - I love you! More! More!

Posted by: TallyGlenn | March 10, 2011 4:40 PM | Report abuse

Here's what I don't understand. We see that the loyalty of Muslim Americans is challenged by some. Now, if you were in a minority and you were accused of not being loyal, what would you do?

Why have we seen no editorials by prominent Muslims in the US stating flatly that they support the Constitution and they would never accept anything but secular democracy as a form of government? [one exception below ...]

Certainly, they say "we're loyal Americans", but they don't specify what it is that makes them loyal Americans.

Do you realize that in CAIR's website, they do NOT declare any support for democracy?

Do you realize that? Here is their statement of core principles:

CAIR supports free enterprise, freedom of religion and freedom of expression.

CAIR is committed to protecting the civil rights of all Americans, regardless of faith.

CAIR supports domestic policies that promote civil rights, diversity and freedom of religion.

CAIR opposes domestic policies that limit civil rights, permit racial, ethnic or religious profiling, infringe on due process, or that prevent Muslims and others from participating fully in American civic life.

CAIR is a natural ally of groups, religious or secular, that advocate justice and human rights in America and around the world.

CAIR supports foreign policies that help create free and equitable trade, encourage human rights and promote representative government based on socio-economic justice.

CAIR believes the active practice of Islam strengthens the social and religious fabric of our nation.

CAIR condemns all acts of violence against civilians by any individual, group or state.

CAIR advocates dialogue between faith communities both in America and worldwide.

CAIR supports equal and complementary rights and responsibilities for men and women.

No mention of democracy, and if ever there was a place to declare such support, this is it. The absence of the word is not an oversight.

Come on, CAIR! You fume when the loyalty of Muslims is called into question, but you do not even display it yourself with a simple declaration that you support the Constitution.

Why should I trust that organization?

In contrast, look what Sheila Musaji (the editor of The "American Muslim") wrote:

"America is a secular and democratic nation with a clearly marked wall between church and state (thank God!)."

"I don’t want to see Shariah, or Biblical law, or any other religious law replace the Constitution, and I don’t want to see any kind of a theocracy in place based on any religion."

Now that I can understand, and that's a woman I trust completely.

Try to find another American Muslim, beside the brave Sheila, who will say these things

Posted by: victorpurinton | March 10, 2011 4:41 PM | Report abuse

If we would teach comparative religion in our public high schools (which was taught in mine years ago under the name Cultural Heritage), we would not confuse religion with extremist violence. That is the misuse of religion. And it is a misuse of religion for Christian fundamentalists to think theirs is the only true faith. That is ignorance.

So I suggest we pay attention to comparative religion and not be deluded by any fundamentalist sect.

Posted by: GaiasChild | March 10, 2011 4:44 PM | Report abuse

In the tradition of Lincoln, the Kennedy(s) and ML King, I stand, in silence and in shame for my beloved country, beside Representative Ellison. I am sad beyond measure that religious bigotry now threatens to become the new normal across much of this great land. Of course, if religious freedom is no longer embraced here in America, we will no longer be a great country. Rather, we will be a shadow of the America that once fought for the sacred freedoms (including religious freedom) of men and women around the world. Our founders and forebears will weep in heaven. And then, smiling broadly in celebration, the terrorists will gaze at one another with total, joyful satisfaction, saying, "We won! We forced the Americans to give up their freedoms. We are the victors!" For, if you remember only one thing, remember this: If we sacrifice just one of our sacred freedoms on the altar security, the terrorists will have won the war.

Posted by: scottycamp | March 10, 2011 4:54 PM | Report abuse


You must remember this is a new and growing enemy "Radical Islam". Prior to their attack on America we enjoyed Liberty and Freedom. That is slowly being taken away because of their attacks and that is their plan. To use our freedom and Liberty as a weapon against us. Their plan is to use our own strengths as weapons against us.

Radical Islam has gained the spotlight with their evil doings. Like the disgusting display of beheadings of innocent human beings on the internet. Using unsuspecting devices such as airplanes, cars and trains to kill thousands of harmless victims of all diversities. Where was the outrage from the Muslim community when these acts occured...NO WHERE!!! but you are outraged now.
We have a defined enemy and in case you haven't been paying attention they have declaired AMERICA as their enemy!!!

Salman Hamdani was an American. He was killed by radical Islamist and that should outrage you as well as all americans.

By obscuring the face of the enemy you aid the enemy. By claiming Patriotic America to be bigots and hate mongers you are empowering the enemy. What side are you on? Quit playing with words and defend your country or we will all lose it!!

Posted by: jimbeamjr | March 10, 2011 5:01 PM | Report abuse

ah the religion of peace..
guess they forgot this part ..
while they killed some christians in Tahir square Egypt..
or they are busy running after their wifes or daughters trying to kill them..
hold still you infidel..of with thy head..
they believe it's okay to rape a white woman..(she a infidel anyway)
but don't besmirsh the honor of my wife..oops I meant property..
believe its okay to burn our flag..
but heaven forbid someone draws a cartoon of Mo..
a good best..
when stuffed with pork..

Posted by: Rika2 | March 10, 2011 5:03 PM | Report abuse

"Have you now, or have you ever been, a communist sympathizer." Congressman King now joins the ranks of those dishonored few who believe in guilt by assocation. He would take us to a place where fear and intimidation rule over fairness and the presumption of innocence. Where we would judge a man by the color of his skin or the nature of his religion, rather than by the content of his character. Congressman King brings dishonor upon the district he represents, his family, and the congress of the United States.

Posted by: truthwillout | March 10, 2011 5:32 PM | Report abuse

Imagine if Rep. Ellison had half that amount of compassion for Maj. Nidal Hasan's victims.

Posted by: JustJoe3 | March 10, 2011 5:40 PM | Report abuse

Capehart, puhhhhleeeze.........!

You are nothing more than an ignorant tool if you think Ellison is doing anything more than make political's theater, plain and simple.

Furthermore, it's disgusting that he uses the death of an innocent human being to do so. Why isn't Ellison using this man's death to make a case for rooting-out radical, fundamentalist Islamic terrorists and their supporters, especially since he obviously knows they were the root-cause of his death?

Mr. King is providing a desperately needed service that no other single Congressperson has had the cajones to do: shine a little light on an issue that has been pushed aside by PC-practitioners for far too long. Kudos to Mr. King!

If Muslims have nothing to hide then why are the hearings a problem? Answer: they aren't! Or at least they shouldn't be if such is the case. All this hoopla about the hearings is a bit Shakespearean, i.e. "The [liberals] doth protest too much, methinks."

Posted by: flintston | March 10, 2011 6:05 PM | Report abuse

@JustJoe3: Any evidence that he doesn't have that much compassion?

@Physical_Security_Spec and others of your ilk: I know exactly what you mean. Every time I see crocodile tears on Orange Man Boehner, I think the exact same thing: FAKER!

Posted by: Victoria27 | March 10, 2011 6:07 PM | Report abuse

Peter King has any morality or SHAME?
King himself is a long-time supporter of the IRA, and in the 1980s proclaimed: "If civilians are killed in an attack on a military installation it is certainly regrettable, but I will not morally blame the IRA for it." On what ground he can say that extremism of others are sinful but not his or HIS OWN GOONS?

Posted by: citysoilverizonnet | March 10, 2011 6:10 PM | Report abuse

BRAVO!!!!! Keith Ellison

Brilliant performance this morning. Sir, you belong in Hollywood. I heard through the grapevine that a very popular sitcom is looking to replace their male lead. If this morning's performance is an indication of the depth of your acting talents, I do believe you're a shoo-in.

Posted by: Whitese7en | March 10, 2011 6:26 PM | Report abuse

Why is it OK, according to Capeheart, to question ANYONE's patriotism?

When you do, it only just leads to this type of treatment that we saw today.


Posted by: kromerm | March 10, 2011 7:35 PM | Report abuse

Of the most recent 130 home grown terrorism acts or planning to act 128 are by Islamist yet the left is willing to commit suicide and leave our people in danger in the name of political correctness. When is this madness going to stop? When there is a school bus blown to smitherines with childrens body parts strewn about the street is that what it is going to take to realize that yes there is a problem?

Posted by: Pilot1 | March 10, 2011 7:53 PM | Report abuse

Let's just call Mr. King, McCarthy. It is appaulling how far America has gone back to the painful days of the early 1950s. That seems what the Republicans are doing in every instance these days. Sadly, he will provoke people to join those who are opposed to our country with these hearings. They are only showcases that will show that bigotry is alive and well in the USA. Mr. King is not going to gain anything of value from these hearings that do cost us, the taxpayers, monies and future grief. Shame on him and all those who support his actions.

Posted by: snoopsmom | March 10, 2011 8:05 PM | Report abuse

Wow - What a show Peter king put on today.
He belongs on TV and in front of the media!
Hooray Peter - Wow - I love you! More! More!

Posted by: knjincvc | March 10, 2011 8:45 PM | Report abuse

What truly bothers me about these hearings is that they imply that American muslims have a duty to show that they are patriots. Do non-muslim Americans have that duty? It was pointed out by one of the posters that CAIR does not include "support for democracy" as one of their core principles. Do other similar organizations include "support for democracy" as a core principle? It seems to me from the listing of CAIR's core principles that they certainly support all of the ideals included in our Constitution, including freedom of religion and "protection of civil rights of all Americans regardless of faith." Do they need to state explicitly their support for the form of government of the nation in which were founded and exist? Really?!?!? Just a quick search of the web will show that neither the Association of the United States Army, the U.S. Naval Institute, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, nor the U.S. Chamber of Commerce include any mention of anything resembling "support for democracy" as part of their core principles or mission statement. But CAIR is suspect because it doesn't? REALLY?!?!?!?!

What these hearings imply is that muslims are obligated to be extra patriotic, to publicly condemn radical islam, in order to clear themselves of any suspicion. When crazy christians shoot an abortion doctor or blow up a clinic, is every christian leader obligated to condemn that act explicitly or be suspected of supporting it? I wouldn't expect that, nor should we expect every islamic leader to publicly condemn the bad acts of every crazy muslim terrorist in order to avoid suspicion.

I think that muslim leaders should condemn such acts, but their failure to do so does not make me suspect them of supporting or even condoning such acts.

The people we are talking about here are Americans. There are plenty of non-muslim Americans who are criminals, who would like to see our democracy fail, who would work to subvert our ideals and principles (think anarchists, white supremecists, and many other types of groups). Are members of their communities -- neighbors, those who share their religion or race or class -- required to condemn them or else risk being lumped in with the bad guys? Many white supremecists claim to be acting in the name of Christianity. Are all christians thus implicated unless they expressly disavow the acts of the bad apples?

It's absurd to think so. But the message that is being sent by these hearings is that muslims are required to actively disavow the acts of any muslim, no matter how crazy and outside of their own beliefs. One of the problems that supporters of these hearings cite is that muslims are not always well integrated into the rest of society. Hearings like these are not exactly going to motivate American muslims to reach out.

Posted by: DM_Inf | March 10, 2011 9:57 PM | Report abuse

...and another thing, the list of witnesses to be called during these hearings is not exactly balanced. With the exception of Mr. Ellison and the L.A. County Sheriff, there are no leaders of islamic organizations of any size and no other members of law enforcement who might actually have knowledge of the level of cooperation (or lack thereof) received from members of the islamic community. Seems like these hearings are not at all about getting at the truth, but more about politics.

Posted by: DM_Inf | March 10, 2011 10:01 PM | Report abuse

Mr. King gave a bravura performance today. He was well-coached, and fairly believable. I wonder how long he had to practice to shed his IRA past.

Theater, nothing more.

Posted by: knjincvc | March 10, 2011 10:55 PM | Report abuse

BRAVO!!!!! Peter King

Brilliant performance this morning. Sir, you belong in Hollywood. I heard through the grapevine that a very popular sitcom is looking to replace their male lead. If this morning's performance is an indication of the depth of your acting talents, I do believe you're a shoo-in.

Posted by: knjincvc | March 10, 2011 10:57 PM | Report abuse

Notwithstanding Rep. Ellison's crocodile tears, I would be very curious to
know if there is a memorial anywhere in a single Muslim country on
earth for the Ground Zero 1st responder Hamdani, murdered by his fellow Muslims while screaming Allah is Great on 9/11?

My guess is that at least a few hundred million adherents of Islam view the man
as a lucky collateral damage martyr rather than a victim of Islamic terrorism.

Posted by: lunatique7 | March 11, 2011 1:26 AM | Report abuse


As everyone can see the Enemy of America uses freedom of religion, our liberties and our own principles and values against us. They even use our good nature and tolerance against us until they've become rooted into America culture and their voice becomes great enough to gain a political advantage.

The Enemy is cloaked with lies and deception, evil intentions disguised as advocates for human rights. In the dark while America is tucking in their children the enemy plans another attack.

America as a melting pot is the best of what other nations have to give us. And as true Americans we all have one thing in common. We are always willing to defend the Ideals of this Nation and make it better for the sake of our posterity.

Americans don’t defend and rationalize evil.

Posted by: jimbeamjr | March 11, 2011 1:58 AM | Report abuse

Cute. Al Qaeda's handmaiden in Congress weeps over a story as blatantly untrue as those inciting Muslims in Germany to open fire on US troops.

You're a sucker in more ways than one, Capehart.

Posted by: pcannady | March 11, 2011 6:40 AM | Report abuse

Mr Capehart foolishly defends these radicals yet as a gay man he would be one of their first targets if they allow Shariah law to overtake the USA. "Useful idiot" is the name they have for you Mr Capehart. You, Joy Behar, the staff at the New York Times, Newsweek and MSNBC as well as countless others are among the wackos who are ruining our country. Perhaps you need to view the video of Daniel Pearl being beheaded once might jolt you into reality.

Posted by: JUNGLEJIM123 | March 11, 2011 8:25 AM | Report abuse

At first I was against these hearings because I thought it might be a blanket accusation of Muslims in the US. So far, it hasn't been that way, but many viewpoints have been presented: the parent whose son was radicalized in college and then went to Yemen for training in arms; Rep. Ellison and his story of patriotism and sacrifice of a young Muslim-American man on 9-11. Both of these stories are true and representative of part of what is happening with Muslims in this country. I think it wrong to ignore either. However so many commenters see only one side or other. Blindness to the good, and to the bad, are equally bad. And this is true for all people, those in the Muslim community and those outside it.

Posted by: mareader | March 11, 2011 12:18 PM | Report abuse

You know there are some sick people out there, but to question the tears of a man who believes in his faith is the sickest. America is not a country to be proud of anymore, because it has been taken over by those only believe in the wants of the few and not the many.

Posted by: mlj4584 | March 11, 2011 1:37 PM | Report abuse

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