“I must be one of a few physicians, if not the only one, who read his own children’s murder autopsy reports and details,” Dr. Mohammad Abu-Salha said at a congressional hearing on “Hate Crimes and the Rise of White Nationalism” Tuesday. In 2015, Abu-Salha’s two daughters and his son-in-law were shot to death “execution style,” their father said.
Yet throughout Tuesday’s hearing, Abu-Salha was repeatedly asked to explain and defend his Muslim faith. At one point, a fellow witness directly challenged Abu-Salha on his claim that Islam does not instruct its adherents to hate Jews.
“I’m really confused when the good doctor says that Islam does not teach hatred of Jews,” said Mort Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America, nearly three hours into the hearing, before claiming that several imams in the United States had “publicly made sermons calling to murder Jews.”
“There has to be a reformation and a rethinking of the aspects of the Quran that promote hatred against Jews,” Klein said.
But Klein, who at one point in the hearing defended President Donald Trump’s claim that there were “good people” at the 2017 neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, was far from the only one Tuesday to press Abu-Sallah on his faith.
The first to do so was Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), who offered her sympathies to the doctor and then asked: “Did you teach your children, your daughters, hatred?
“Absolutely not, congresswoman,” Abu-Salha said, before talking about his children’s volunteer work and his own role on his mosque’s board. “We definitely make sure that anybody who is racist or hateful is out.”
Jackson Lee followed up: “So by the very fact of being Muslim, you are not filling children, or those in the mosque, with hatefulness?”
“We fight this, actually,” Abu-Salha responded.
Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA) was next. He too offered Abu-Salha his condolences, but again, did not ask him about the murder of the three Muslim young people on whose behalf Abu-Salha was appearing.
“Does Islam teach Muslims to hate Jewish people?” he asked.
Again, Abu-Salha defended his faith. “Actually, in the Quran, it says that killing any human being is akin to killing humanity, and reviving a soul is akin to reviving humanity,” he said.
[ Mohammad Abu-Salha spoke to TPM in 2016 about the murder of his children. Read our coverage here. ]
It took three hours for Abu-Salha to be asked for his opinion on a matter relevant to the hearing topic.
“You and I are survivors,” Rep. Lucy McBath (D-GA) told the doctor, referring to his children and her son, Jordan Davis, whose murderer was sentenced to life in prison without parole plus in 2014.
“Each of us has lost loved ones because of the deadly combination of prejudice and a firearm,” she said, before asking Abu-Salha: “What resources are needed for the rising numbers of survivors of hate crimes, both immediately after an incident and in the months and years afterward?”
Abu-Salha pointed out that “many American states don’t have hate crime laws,” and advocated for them. He said the definition of a “hate crime” ought to be broadened to include violations that don’t include a verbal expression of hatred.
Then, the doctor referred to Mort Klein, who a few minutes earlier had asserted that half of Muslims worldwide were anti-Semitic.
“I was trained in medical school by Jewish professors,” Abu-Salha said. “I have Jewish friends. My son has best friends who are Jewish. The Jewish community came to our rescue and we had an interfaith night after the New Zealand massacre. But I find it troubling that Mr. Klein turned this conversation into almost an Islamophobic conversation, when I’m talking about my tragedy and my loss as a Muslim.”