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Talat G. Hamdani, Mother of Mohammad Salman Hamdani
Supporter of 9/11 Families for Peaceful Tomorrows

Muslim Americans have carried the cross since September 11, 2001. Time has come to take it off. My son, Mohammad Salman Hamdani, 23, was a first responder, an NYPD Cadet who was killed that day at WTC while trying to save lives. In the days following, his noble actions and sacrifice were turned into a story of speculations based on his Muslim faith. It was not until he was mentioned by name as a hero in the PATRIOT Act that his reputation was redeemed. Many Muslim Americans died that day and the audacity of some to blame all Muslims for the actions of foreign terrorists is hurtful.

Salman was an FDNY Certified EMT, worked for Metro Ambulance, and was an NYPD Cadet. Yet this was irrelevant in the mass hysteria against Muslims. Even though Salman died while saving people, he was deemed as a suspect in the attacks simply because he was a chemistry major, was born in Pakistan, and was Muslim, Before Salman’s remains were recovered from the wreckage, an acquaintance informed us that the NYPD was circulating a flyer with a picture of Salman that read: *WANTED…Chemistry Major…Has NYPD ID*.

The media descended upon our family like vultures in anticipation of a kill camping outside my house, bent on interrogating my 83 year old mother. The NY Post’s sensational headline blared “Missing or Hiding” under Salman’s picture and claimed someone has seen him at the midtown tunnel after the attacks. Through all this, I was in Mecca and not here to defend my son.

Congressman Ackerman, than a member of the Terrorist Task Force, interrogated my family over the telephone and in person in his office. Why did Salman join the NYPD? Why did he go to London to study? Where was he going when he left the house on 9/11/01? Who was he planning to meet? When did I last see him? Where is his passport? He also suggested that Salman, still missing, might have been detained by the INS since he wasn’t born here and made me write a letter to AG Ashcroft.

We contacted the White House, FBI and Senator Schumer, but only received form letters from the former two. Senator Schumer has yet to respond.

Only in late October did we learn that Salman’s name was included as a hero in Section 102 of the PATRIOT ACT. Six months later, on March 20, 2002, two police officers cam and notified me at 11:30 PM that his remains were indeed identified through DNA testing at about the same time that the PATRIOT ACT was passed. We had Salman’s funeral on April 5, 2002, seven months after he died. Two years later, my husband died of a broken heart.

Is this what America really is? My son and my family were singled out from the other victims of 9/11 only because we are Muslims. I did not come here to have my son treated like a criminal in death, when in life he was a hero. What have we become? Have we forgotten our history? The Pilgrims came to this great land of liberty to escape religious persecution from the British. Two centuries later, we have lost our way. Muslims have become the persecuted. Not so fast. The First Amendment of the US Constitution protects all faiths.

There are more than 8 million Muslims who are an integral part of the American fabric. They are not terrorists. They also died in the 9/11 attacks. They are protected, like other people of faith, by the US Constitution and they should not be persecuted on American soil for their faith.

This country belongs to all her people – people of diverse ethnicity, race, and faith. When Salman and other first responders went to rescue their fellow Americans, they did not hesitate to think about the faith of the victims. It is time to come together as a nation and heal and move forward in unity, instead of being divided along religious lines. Not all 9/11 families are out for revenge. There are many 9/11 families who are advocating reconciliation and peace, and I am one of them.