A Muslim-American New York Police Department (NYPD) lieutenant will join Rep. Grace Meng (D-N.Y.) as her guest at President Barack Obama's final State of the Union address on Tuesday, the congresswoman announced Monday.
News of Lt. Adeel Rana's invitation comes amid heightened anti-Muslim sentiment, following terrorist attacks both in the U.S. and abroad, and less than a week after the city announced it would settle two lawsuits alleging the NYPD surveilled Muslims because of their religion in the years following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The agreement, which still requires federal court approval, will bring a number of reforms to the city's police department, including banning investigations in which "race, religion or ethnicity is a substantial or motivating factor."
"It will be an honor to have Lt. Rana at the State of the Union, and I look forward to welcoming him to the president's address to Congress," Meng said in a statement. "His attendance will be a tremendous show of solidarity against the increased Islamophobia that has disgracefully spread across our country, and hopefully his presence can help combat it."
Also on Monday, Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), the first Muslim elected to Congress, asked members of Congress to bring Muslims as guests, according to CBS News. Ellison and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), the Democratic National Committee chairperson, originally made the appeal in a December letter, according to the Huffington Post.
Three Asian-American leaders will also be watching the State of the Union from the first lady's box.
Rana, who is president of the NYPD Muslim Officers Society, said in a statement that he was greatly honored and extremely proud to receive Meng's invitation.
"As an American Muslim who has always been dedicated to serving my country and my fellow Americans, I see this as a wonderful opportunity to represent all the great Muslim Americans," said Rana, a naturalized American citizen who emigrated from Pakistan in the 1980s and worked at ground zero as a national guardsman after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.