A post for 9/11: Muslim American heroes.

In honor of all we lost on that terrible day, a short list of just a few Muslim American heroes. I don’t know the first man’s name, but aside from being a hero, it would seem he’s also a very good friend.

  1. 9/11 first-responder

  2. Mohammad Salman Hamdani, 9/11 first-responder – A 23 year old paramedic, Mohammad Salman Hamdani died trying to save lives at the World Trade Center. After his death, Hamdani’s Muslim faith was seen as reason to suspect him of collaborating with the terrorists — thankfully, the truth of his life and death eventually came out. Rep. Keith Ellison evoked Hamdani’s memory at Peter King’s hearings into the “radicalization” of American Muslims, breaking down in tears as he did so.
  3. Cpl. Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan, US Army – Twenty years old when he was killed by an IED in Iraq, Cpl. Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan’s military awards and decorations include the Purple Heart, Army Commendation Medal, a bronze star, and a good conduct medal. His unit was scheduled to ship home a month before he was killed, but the 2007 surge extended Khan’s combat tour. His story came to the forefront of America’s discussion of Muslim patriotism when Colin Powell discussed Khan’s sacrifice at some length on Meet the Press in 2008.kareem-rashad-sultan-khan
  4. Rep. Keith Ellison – This country’s first Muslim member of Congress, Rep. Ellison (D-MN – see above) is sharp, compassionate, and a dedicated advocate for the civil rights of all Americans. On a personal note, I will forever be grateful to him for being one of the very few members of Congress to ever travel to the Gaza Strip, and for defending the good name of Judge Richard Goldstone, author of the much-maligned but little-read Goldstone Report on Israel’s 2008/09 war in Gaza.
  5. Farhana Khera – President and Executive Director of Muslim Advocates and the National Association of Muslim Lawyers, Farhana Khera previously served as Counsel to the US Senate Judiciary Committee. She also worked for six years under Sen. Feingold (D-WI), Chairman of the Constitution Subcommittee at the time. Her areas of expertise include racial and religious profiling and American civil liberties, about which she has said: “After the horrific attacks of 9/11, and the realization that the American-Muslim community was bearing the brunt of new, overly broad laws and policies, and some of our fellow Americans feeling perfectly fine abridging our rights, it was incumbent on us as Americans and as Muslims to step forward and fight for the founding values of our country.”
  6. Farouk El-Baz – Today the director of Boston University’s Center for Remote Sensing, Dr. El-Baz served as the Supervisor of Lunar Science Planning for NASA’s Apollo Program from 1967-1972, and then went on to establish and direct the Center for Earth and Planetary Studies at the Smithsonian Institution’s Air and Space Museum. Perhaps of even greater weight and import, however, Dr. El-Baz had a shuttle named after him in Star Trek: The Next Generation (!):

el-baz-shuttle5And finally a video that I just love, the work of of Muslim-American country singer Kareem Salama and filmmaker Lena Khan. To learn more about the clip (which won the grand prize in the One Nation, Many Voices short film contest in 2008), read this post by my friend Rabbi Rachel Barenblatt.

If you have some names you’d like to add, I’d be very grateful if you did so in the comments. 

السلام عليكمas-salamu alaykum – peace upon you, and on us all.

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If you’re interested in reading some Muslim responses to terrorism (spoiler: they’re against it), click here.

For my thoughts on how we write about terrorists who happen to be Muslim, click here.

And finally, please note that the above is an edited version of a post I first ran in 2011.

Make the world a better place: Sign these two petitions.

Petition #1: The US should pursue diplomacy with Iran, not military action.

To my great relief, some in the US Congress have figured out that war against Iran would be a really, really bad idea (here are two good pieces on that: Experts Say Iran Attack Is Irrational, Yet Hawks Are Winning the Debate by Peter Beinart in The Daily Beast and Military action isn’t the only solution to Iran by Thomas Pickering and William Luers in The Washington Post).

Keith Ellison (D-MN) and Walter Jones (R-NC) are circulating what’s called a sign-on letter, asking Representatives to urge the Administration to pursue diplomacy in order to resolve our differences with Iran.

Now that the international community has enacted the strongest sanctions against Iran to date, we must redouble our diplomatic efforts to achieve the transparency measures that will ensure Iran’s nuclear program remains a civilian one.

Without a corresponding diplomatic undertaking, pressure alone could lead to unintended and potentially devastating consequences, including war. Top U.S. national security officials have said that a military strike against Iran could lead to a regional war in the Middle East and attacks against U.S. interests.

While we acknowledge that progress will be difficult, we believe that keeping diplomatic channels open is the best way to avoid a new war and ensure that Iran does not gain a nuclear weapon. Please join us in sending this message to President Obama.

If you would like your Representative to sign on to these sentiments (even if you think s/he already has, even if you think s/he never would in a million years) please sign the J Street petition to that effect: Tell your Representative: Sign the Ellison-Jones Letter.

Then, if you can, please call him/her as well – you’ll find the phone number here: Contacting the Congress. If you’re Jewish, make sure you mention that when you call – Washington tends to think “the Jews” support bombing Tehran back to the Stone Age. (I actually forgot to mention it when I called, so I called back…! I told the young man answering the phone that not only am I a constituent, I’m also an American Jew with dual Israeli citizenship, and I really support diplomacy over war — and he thanked me!).

Petition #2: The Jewish National Fund should stop evicting Palestinians from their East Jerusalem homes.

Rabbis for Human Rights have organized a petition to protest the ongoing eviction of Palestinian families from East Jerusalem by the Jewish National Fund.

The JNF is an organization well-known for planting trees for the Jewish people in the Jewish State, but it turns out that they’re also heavily involved in straight-up settlement activities, and oddly enough, Rabbis for Human Rights thinks that evicting people from their homes is not a good thing for Jews to be engaging in.

The Jewish National Fund in Israel (KKL-JNF) is best known for planting trees in Israel. We are proud of much of KKL-JNF’s work in growing and developing the modern State of Israel.

Unfortunately, over the last two decades KKL-JNF has also been amassing property seized from Palestinians in East Jerusalem, evicting families, and turning the property over to a settler organization with the express goal of Judaizing Palestinian neighborhoods. These evictions place facts on the ground that are roadblocks to peace.

Join us in urging the Jewish National Fund to issue a public statement that they will no longer engage in evictions. Our money and the money of other unsuspecting American donors should not be used to support actions that violate human rights and threaten the security and moral fabric of the State of Israel.

For additional information,click here; to sign that petition, just click here: Tell the JNF not to Evict Palestinians from East Jerusalem.

And please spread the word about each of these actions – they’re simple enough to take, and each time we make our voices heard, we move the universe a bit further along on the arc toward justice.

Muslim American heroes.

Please note update, below.

At some point in recent years — I think it was about the time that then-candidate Obama started running as if on fire from the Muslim “accusation” — I found myself a self-appointed basher of Muslim-bashing.

I wrote an op/ed about Obama’s reactions to the Muslim thing for the Detroit Free Press, and since then, have occasionally gotten to fill the role of Muslim-bashing-basher professionally (as a contract writer), but mostly, it’s been me standing on my virtual soapbox and yelling as loudly as I can — as was the case on Sunday night, this time on Twitter.

Via Twitter, I learned that the CNN documentary Unwelcome: The Muslim Next Door had aired that evening, and brought to light some pretty hair-raising anti-Muslim hatred, leaving some of my Muslim Twitter buddies upset and saddened. I spontaneously responded by starting a new hashtag: #MuslimAmericanHero.

Over the next 24 hours or so, a bunch of us swapped the names and stories of Americans we admire or even find heroic, Americans who happen to be Muslim, and I learned a lot in the process. Did you know, for instance, that an Egyptian-American Muslim scientist named Farouk El-Baz served as the Supervisor of Lunar Science Planning for NASA’s Apollo Program? Yeah, neither did I. But if you helped put people on the moon? You are totally an American hero in my book.

So I decided to take a few of the names that came up under the hashtag (and if you don’t know what the heck a hashtag is, this is a great source) and give them some love here. Because honest to God, the more we non-Muslim Americans come to recognize the contributions of our Muslim compatriots? The better off we all will be.

  1. Cpl. Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan, US Army  – Twenty years old when he was killed by an IED in Iraq, Cpl. Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan’s military awards and decorations include the Purple Heart, Army Commendation Medal, a bronze star, and a good conduct medal. His unit was scheduled to ship home a month before he was killed, but the 2007 surge extended Khan’s combat tour. His story came to the forefront of America’s discussion of Muslim patriotism when Colin Powell discussed Khan’s sacrifice at some length on Meet the Press in 2008.
  2. Mohammad Salman Hamdani – A 23 year old paramedic and a 9/11 first responder, Mohammad Salman Hamdani died trying to save lives at the World Trade Center. After his death, Hamdani’s Muslim faith was seen as reason to suspect him of collaborating with the terrorists — thankfully, the truth of his life and death eventually came out. Rep. Keith Ellison evoked Hamdani’s memory at Peter King’s recent hearings into the “radicalization” of American Muslims, breaking down in tears as he did so.
  3. Rep. Keith Ellison – This country’s first Muslim member of Congress, Rep. Ellison (D-MN) is sharp, compassionate, and a dedicated advocate for the civil rights of all Americans. On a personal note, I will forever be grateful to him for being one of the very few members of Congress to ever travel to the Gaza Strip, and for defending the good name of Judge Richard Goldstone, author of the much-maligned but little-read Goldstone Report on Israel’s 2008/09 war in Gaza.
  4. Farhana Khera – President and Executive Director of Muslim Advocates and the National Association of Muslim Lawyers, Farhana Khera previously served as Counsel to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee. She also worked for six years under Sen. Feingold (D-WI), Chairman of the Constitution Subcommittee at the time. Her areas of expertise include racial and religious profiling and American civil liberties, about which she has said: “After the horrific attacks of 9/11, and the realization that the American-Muslim community was bearing the brunt of new, overly broad laws and policies, and some of our fellow Americans feeling perfectly fine abridging our rights, it was incumbent on us as Americans and as Muslims to step forward and fight for the founding values of our country. “
  5. Farouk El-Baz – Today the director of Boston University’s Center for Remote Sensing (a thing I will have to look up, next), Dr. El-Baz served as the Supervisor of Lunar Science Planning for NASA’s Apollo Program from 1967-1972, and then went on to establish and direct the Center for Earth and Planetary Studies at the Smithsonian Institution’s Air and Space Museum. Perhaps most importantly, Dr. El-Baz had a shuttle named after him in Star Trek: The Next Generation.
  6. I don’t know this man’s name, but he strikes me as pretty heroic, too.
    And a good friend.

If you have your own Muslim American heroes to name, please do so in the comments! And finally, for your listening pleasure, once again — my favorite Muslim country singer, Kareem Salama, on seeking and finding paradise:

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Update: My internet buddy Rabbi Rachel Barenblatt did some research into the Kareem Salama video, the story behind it and its director, and I highly recommend that you check out her post: “Learning about a Land Called Paradise” (and also, more generally, make sure you check out her blog! Velveteen Rabbi).

Crossposted at Angry Black Lady Chronicles.

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