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Hundreds mourn Bayside cadet as Sept. 11 hero

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Nearly 900 mourners gathered last week to lament the death of Mohammed Salman Hamdani but to rejoice as well at his valor at the World Trade Center in a demonstration of the Bayside man’s profound love for America.

Hamdani, who was born in Pakistan and came to the United States when he was a year old, was laid to rest following his funeral Friday at the mosque of the Islamic Cultural Center on Manhattan’s Upper East Side.

The 23-year-old Bayside man was among the thousands missing after the terrorist attack and his remains were not found until March 20 at the Twin Towers.

It turned out that Hamdani, a graduate of Queens College and member of the Police Cadet Corps, had gone to the World Trade Center to join the rescue effort on Sept. 11. But his family had held out hope that he might have been arrested in the federal government’s anti-terrorist sweep because of his Pakistani origins.

Speakers ranging from family members and friends to Mayor Michael Bloomberg and U.S. Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-Bayside) praised the young man from a pulpit to the right of Hamdani’s American flag-draped coffin.

Many of the men and women at the rites wore scarves bearing an American flag pattern.

Several spoke of the young man’s devotion to his adopted country.

“Although he was a citizen of this country,” said Hamdani’s brother, Adnan, 20, “he hated the fact that he was not born in America. He was the most selfless person I have ever known.”

“My brother was a martyr,” said another brother, Zechan, praising Hamdani’s eagerness to help rescue people from the World Trade Center calamity.

Hamdani’s mother, Talat, standing beside her husband, Saleem Hamdani, offered inspiring and eloquent remarks.

She said it did not matter that her son was not born in America.

“You have honored America,” she said of him.

The Islamic ceremony began with recitations from the Koran, condolences and a eulogy by Imam Pasha Ramas, the prayer leader, as a brilliant, early spring sun flooded the white interior of the mosque with light.

“He gave his life for humanity,” the imam said. “He deserves all the honors of a hero.”

“He was an example of how to make the world a better place,” said Mayor Bloomberg. ‘He was an example to all of us.”

More than 100 members of the Police Cadet Corps sat in their uniforms on the mosque floor among the hundreds of other seated mourners.

The Hamdani family arrived in the United States from Pakistan 22 years ago. The father, Saleem, owns a store in Brooklyn.

Mohammad Salman Hamdani grew up in Bayside and was a 1995 graduate of Bayside HS, where he played football and took part in swimming and debating. He graduated from Queens College last spring and joined the Police Cadet Corps. He was working as a research assistant at Howard Hughes Medical Institute of Rockefeller University, having decided to become a doctor.

The USA Patriot Act, anti-terrorist legislation passed by Congress Oct. 26, includes a section that warns against discrimination against Arab and Muslim Americans and a part of it is dedicated to Muhammad Salman Hamdani. The section condemned the prejudice endured by Arab and Muslim Americans after Sept. 11, including the ordeal of the Hamdani family.

Discovery of Hamdani’s remains put an end to questions and rumors in the months after the attacks. Leaflets had appeared saying Hamdani was wanted for questioning by authorities. But officials denied ordering distribution of such fliers.

Hamdani’s mother, a schoolteacher, said she had felt sure her son had gone to the World Trade Center that fateful day to help in rescue efforts. Yet, she said, the family wanted to believe he might have been detained by police and that his life had been spared.

Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 136.

Posted 7:03 pm, October 10, 2011
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