Who are the Muslim Americans attending tonight’s State of the Union address?
By Elise Viebeck
Democratic Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Keith Ellison are urging colleagues to invite Muslim Americans as guests to Tuesday night’s State of the Union address. So far, more than a dozen lawmakers — mostly Democrats — have heeded their call.
It’s not uncommon for lawmakers to choose State of the Union guests that make a political statement. Several Democrats are planning to bring guests who have been victims of gun violence, while two members of a Catholic religious order challenging the 2010 Affordable Care Act will attend after invitations from Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.).
The appeal from Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), the chair of the Democratic National Committee, and Ellison (D-Minn.), the first Muslim elected to Congress, comes at a time of rising anti-Muslim rhetoric from politicians like Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and a wave of incidents targeting people of Muslim faith.
“This rhetoric and these actions are simply un-American,” Wasserman Schultz and Ellison wrote in a letter to colleagues last week. “They undermine our values and weaken our ability to be a force for good around the world.”
Ellison is one of two Muslim members of Congress. The Minneapolis Democrat, who converted to Islam at age 19, said it’s important for public officials to extend a hand to the Muslim community, in part to counteract rhetoric from the Islamic State, or ISIS.
“Each of these people are going to go back to their community and talk about the fact that they came here at the invitation of a member of Congress, were treated with honor and respect, and they’ll directly counteract the ISIS message, which is that America hates Muslims,” Ellison said in an interview last week.
“It’s not true; it’s a lie. The sad fact is that some Americans are repeating the same nonsense that the ISIS people are repeating. If you listen to what Donald Trump says or what ISIS says about the American-Muslim relationship, it’s the same thing! We don’t agree with that,” Ellison said.
Here’s a look at the lawmakers bringing Muslim American guests, and who those guests are:
— Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) will bring Mohsin Jaffer, a doctor in Weston, Fla.;
— Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) will bring his son, Elijah, an active-duty combat medic in the Army;
— Rep. Ami Bera (D-Calif.) will bring Sarmed Ibrahim, an engineer and Iraqi refugee;
— Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.) will bring Salma Ahmad, president of The Islamic Society of Greater Portland;
— Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.) will bring Adnan Khan, a business owner and past president of the Council of Pakistan American Affairs;
— Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) will bring Asima Silva, a community leader and software engineer from Central Massachusetts;
— Rep. Grace Meng (D-N.Y.) will bring Lt. Adeel Rana, a New York City Police lieutenant;
— Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) will bring Ahmad Alkhalaf, a 9-year-old Syrian refugee who lost both of his arms in a bombing raid;
— Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) will bring Samba Baldeh, a Madison, Wis., alderman and software engineer;
— Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) will bring Alaa Basatneh, a 23-year-old activist who was born in Syria;
— Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.) will bring Imam Hamad Ahmad Chebli of the Islamic Society of Central Jersey;
— Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) will bring Abdirahman Kahin, owner of Afro Deli & Grill restaurants in Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minn.;
— Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Mich.) will bring Sarah Hekmati, sister of Amir Hekmati, a former Marine who remains imprisoned in Iran as an accused U.S. spy; and
— Rep. Matt Salmon (R-Ariz.) will bring Ramy Kurdi, husband of Sarah Hekmati.
— Rep. Joe Courtney (D-Conn.) will bring Mohammed Qureshi, a doctor and president of the Baitul Aman Mosque in Meriden, Conn., which was shot at the night of the Nov. 13 terror attacks in Paris.
— Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) will bring Imam ShemsAdeen Ben-Masaud of the Metro Denver North Islamic Center.
Reps. Mike Honda (D-Calif.), Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) will also bring Muslim American guests, according to a spokesman for Ellison, but their offices did not respond to inquiries about the guests’ names.