Muslim group's officials invited to State of the Union
By Harper Neidig
Two officials from the Council on American-Islamic Relations will be attending the State of the Union address Tuesday as guests of Democratic lawmakers.
Reps. Zoe Lofgren (Calif.) and Alcee Hastings (Fla.) will both be hosting representatives from CAIR chapters in their respective states, the group announced Monday.
Lofgren will be bringing Sameena Usman, a government relations coordinator in the San Francisco office, while Hastings will host Nezar Hamze, the chief operating officer of the nonprofit's Florida branch.
The announcement comes days after Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), the first Muslim elected to Congress, challenged Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) to bring a Muslim American as one of his guests to the speech.
"This is an opportunity to really drive the point home that there are no Americans who are suspect just based on their religious identity, that all Americans are welcome in the people’s house," Ellison said in an interview with The Hill.
Demoratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) has also urged Democratic lawmakers to bring Muslims to the speech as a rebuke to what she sees is anti-Islamic language from the right.
"The rhetoric and vitriol that has been targeted at this community has been absolutely outrageous and unacceptable," Wasserman Schultz said at a news conference according to The Sun-Sentinel.
"And as a member of a minority religion myself, one that has faced persecution throughout our existence, to me the idea that we would stand idly by and ignore that and not stand up and use our voices to stand up for our brothers and sisters in the Muslim-American community was just unacceptable."
CAIR has been an outspoken critic of some Republican presidential contenders, including front-runner Donald Trump, who has called for temporarily banning Muslims from entering the country.
The organization also called on Ben Carson to drop out from the race after the former neurosurgeon said that he does not believe a Muslim should be president without first denouncing Sharia law.
Carson later responded by calling for a federal investigation into CAIR, which he accused of supporting terrorism, as a part of his plan to defeat the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).