WASHINGTON – Talat Hamdani's voice wavered slightly as she insisted her 23-year-old son's death on Sept. 11,2001,was not because of his ties to Islam.
“He was killed because he was an American,” Hamdani said of her son,Mohammed Salman Hamdani,a Pakistani-born paramedic who rushed to the World Trade Center to help victims of the terrorist attacks.
Hamdani joined other Muslims at a news conference Monday to release a response to the 9/11 commission report in hopes that Congress will consider their views as it deals with terrorism-related issues.
Hamdani recalled the thousands of Muslims who were interrogated for alleged connections with terrorist activities and said her son was also investigated by the FBI as a potential suspect after he was reported missing.
“As a Muslim-American woman,it was horrific,” said Hamdani,a public school teacher in Queens. “I came to realize that Islam and terrorism have become synonymous.”
Hamdani became active in immigrant issues that have sprung from the Sept. 11 attacks and has lobbied Congress regarding recommendations for U.S. policies made in the 585-page report released by the 9/11 commission in July.
She offered her support to the Coordinating Council of Muslim Organizations Monday as the group released a newly expanded response to the report.
“First Impressions: American Muslim Perspectives on the 9/11 Commission Report,” was first released in August at the Islamic Society of North America's convention in Chicago.
“We are concerned that the 9/11 commission excluded the voices of Muslim Americans,” said Imam Johari Abdul Malik,Washington-area council chairman,at the news conference.
The committee had several problems with the way Muslims were portrayed in the 9/11 commission's report,said Bonita R. McGee,a member of the steering committee that oversaw the Muslim group's report.
“I think the major concern was when they define terrorism,they define it as Islamic terrorism,” McGee said. “When you have the idea that this faith is linked to that,then you have a problem.”
While the report praises the 9/11 commission's report for its clarity in outlining the threat of terrorist activities,it also questions the feasibility of several of the commission's recommendations,including the call for biometric screening as a strategy to identify international travelers and the impact it could have on civil liberties.
Corey Saylor,government affairs director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations,said it was important to reintroduce the report to lawmakers,as immigration policies become a key issue in Congress,and 16 provisions of the U.S. Patriot Act are set to expire in December.
“We were not consulted in the formulation of the 9/11 report,and we think we have a contribution,” Saylor said.
Saylor said the report would be vital in helping Americans understand how Muslim- Americans were affected by the 2001 terrorist attacks.
“Really,for most people,their introduction to Islam was the image of an airplane hitting a building,” Saylor said. “Unfortunately,the reality is that Muslims have been here working for a long time,doing good work,but it's hard to erase that image.”