Hamtramck, part of the greater Detroit area, has elected its first Muslim mayor and an all-Muslim city council this month. The newly elected council members will begin their term in January,2022, according to The Detroit Free Press. The city's population is dominated by immigrants, including 19.7% Bangladeshi, 11% Pakistani, 10.9% Polish and 10% Arab. The rising Islamophobia in America has served as a wake-up call for all Muslim Americans to become more involved in political and civic affairs of the United States. They are now voting in large numbers and starting to win elections across the country.
|L to R: Nayeem Choudhury, Amanda Jaczkowski, Mohammad Hassan, Mohammad Alsomiri, Khalil Refai and Adam Albarmaki|
Nayeem Choudhury is the chairman of the Hamtramck city council while Amanda Jaczkowski, Mohammed Hassan, Mohammed Alsomiri, Khalil Refai and Adam Albarmaki are city council members. Three of them are of Yemeni descent, two of Bangladeshi descent and one is white.
Yemeni-American Amer Ghalib defeated current Hamtramck Mayor Karen Majewski by a huge margin. Ghalib got 68.5% of the vote, while Majewski received 31.5%.
"It’s important to remember that although we all happen to be practicing Muslims, we are elected through the processes set forth by the United States, Michigan, Wayne County and Hamtramck," Amanda Jaczkowski, one of the three newly elected Muslims on the council, told the Detroit Free Press. "We will all take an oath ... to protect the Constitution of the United States, and that includes the concept of separation of church and state. I believe strongly in that separation, and although I will bring the Islamic values of honesty and integrity to the table, the policies that I promote and affirm will be what is best for all people of Hamtramck."
Muslim candidates have won seats in local elections in several US states this year. In New York, Bangladeshi American Shahana Hanif became the first Muslim woman on the City Council. Boston, where Muslims number fewer than 80,000, also got its first Muslim member of the City Council. Pakistani American Shama Haider, a former Tenafly councilwoman, become the first Muslim elected to the state Legislature. Another Pakistani American, Muhammad Umar, became the first Muslim elected to the Galloway Township in New Jersey.
In Boston, Cape Verde born Muslim-American Tania Fernandes Anderson won her city council seat by defeating Roy Owens, who had relied heavily on anti-Muslim rhetoric in his campaign. Elsewhere in Massachusetts, Etel Haxhiaj, an Albanian American, became the first Muslim elected to the Worcester City Council. In Pennsylvania, Pakistani-American Taiba Sultana, won a seat on the Easton City Council. Azrin Awal, a Bangladeshi American immigrant, became the first Muslim elected to the Duluth City Council in Minnesota.
|L to R: Javed Ellahie, Yasmeen Haq, Riaz Haq and Sabina Zafar|
There are several Muslims serving on city councils in Silicon Valley
, including Javed Ellahie in Monte Sereno and Sabina Zafar in San Ramon. In a historic set of victories last year, six Muslim candidates won elections in Silicon Valley, including the first Muslim member of the Sunnyvale City Council. The new council member, Omar Din, is a 22-year old Pakistani American. Others include: Sam Hindi, Foster City City Council member and mayor; Aziz Akbari, Alameda County Water District board; Hosam Haggag, Santa Clara city clerk; Aliya Chisti, City College of San Francisco board member, and Maimona Afzal, Franklin-McKinley School District board member.
|Recently Elected Silicon Valley Muslim Americans |
Pew Research recently reported that anti-Muslim sentiments
in the United States have doubled since 2001 from 25% to 50% of the respondents associating Muslims and Islam with violence. The rising Islamophobia has served as a wake-up call for Muslim Americans to become more involved in political and civic affairs of the United States. They are now voting in large numbers and starting to win elections across the country.
Rabbi Jonathan Sacks once observed that being a minority in 19th-century Europe was like living in someone else’s country home. The aristocrat owned the house. Other people got to stay there but as guests. They did not get to set the rules, run the institutions or dominate the culture.
Something similar can be said of America in the 1950s. But over the ensuing decades, the Protestant establishment crumbled and America became more marvelously diverse. If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you’re a member of a minority group — or several. Maybe you’re Black or Jewish or Muslim. Maybe you’re gay, trans, Hispanic, Asian American, socialist, libertarian or Swedenborgian.
Even the former country house owners have come to feel like minority members. The formerly mighty mainline Protestant denominations, like the Episcopalians and Methodists, have shrunk and lost influence. Even some of the people who used to regard themselves as part of the majority have come to feel like minorities. White evangelical Protestants are down to about 15 percent of the country. They vote for people like Donald Trump in part because they feel like strangers in their own land, oppressed minorities fighting for survival.
We live in an age of minorities. People assert their minority identities with justified pride. It might be most accurate to say that America is now a place of jostling minorities. The crucial questions become: How do people think about their minority group identity and how do they regard the relationships between minorities?
First, assimilation. The assimilationists feel constricted by their minority identity. They want to be seen as individuals, not as a member of some outsider category. They shed the traits that might identity themselves as Jews or Mexicans or what have you.
Second, separatism. The separatists want to preserve the authenticity of their own culture. They send their kids to schools with their own kind, socialize mostly with their own kind. They derive meaning from having a strong cohesive identity and don’t want it watered down.
Third, combat. People who take this approach see life as essentially a struggle between oppressor and oppressed groups. Bigotry is so baked in that there’s no realistic hope of integration. The battle must be fought against the groups that despise us and whose values are alien to us. In fact, this battle gives life purpose.
Fourth, integration without assimilation. People who take this approach cherish their group for the way it contributes to the national whole. E pluribus unum. Members of this group celebrate pluralistic, hyphenated identities and the fluid mixing of groups that each contribute to an American identity.
Our politics is so nasty now because many people find the third mind-set most compelling. Americans are a deeply religious people, especially when they think they are not being religious. And these days what I would call the religion of minoritarianism has seized many hearts. This is the belief that history is inevitably the heroic struggle by minorities to free themselves from the yoke of majority domination. It is the belief that sin resides in the social structures imposed by majorities and that virtue and the true consciousness reside with the oppressed groups.
The survey also found that 93.7% of respondents said Islamophobia affects their emotional and mental well-being. Ramahi felt this daily, unable to shake a low-level fear that she might be deliberately run over while walking home from campus.
“I don’t know why, but that was always in the back of my mind,” Ramahi said. “And maybe I do know why. Maybe it’s because Muslims are constantly being talked about in this awful way. There’s this assumption that we are a threat to national security, that we are not indigenous to the United States.”
Isra Wazna, a doctoral student at the California Institute of Integral Studies, can relate. Wazna immigrated to the Bay Area from Saudi Arabia in 2006.
Wazna told The Chronicle she had visited San Francisco as a child and always loved the beautiful vistas, the eclectic mix of people and especially the fog. Yet, as a young adult “hijabi” living in Berkeley, Wazna said she confronted Islamophobia routinely.
“It’s a place that is full of contradictions,” she said.
One of the scariest experiences involved a large pickup truck pulling dangerously close to her on Highway 17 and its driver rolling down the window to mimic a war cry. But Wazna also confronted more passive forms of bias, like the woman who expressed surprise at seeing her pet a cute dog since “you guys think that dogs are dirty,” to the questions she encountered whenever she attended events that weren’t specifically about Islam.
“I couldn’t get a breather,” Wazna said. “The last thing you expect to be asked is, ‘Why are you here?’”
Then came the incident that made her reconsider wearing her hijab. It was night and she was on a local university campus with a friend. They had stopped to withdraw money from an ATM when they heard screeching tires. Wazna’s friend screamed as a car pulled close to Wazna. The car pulled away, leaving Wazna and her friend both shaken.
For Wazna, it was a clear act of Islamophobia, but some she told suggested she misunderstood, which she said left her feeling gaslighted. She didn’t report the incident to authorities. Neither did more than half of those surveyed.
The Othering & Belonging Institute, which surveyed 1,123 Muslim Americans in late 2020, found that 40% of respondents have tried to hide their religious identity, while 91.8% of women “censor their speech or actions out of fear of how people might respond or react to them.”
Elsadig Elsheikh, director of the institute’s Global Justice program, said this results in Muslims being afraid to connect with other Muslims. He attributed this to the “element of suspicion” injected into daily Muslim life after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, when the FBI teamed with local law enforcement agencies to surveil Muslim communities, leaving many to think “maybe it’s better for me not to have a connection with people that I don’t know.”
For him, it was one of the survey’s sadder findings.
Elsheikh hoped the survey would help Muslims realize they are not alone, but also enlighten the broader public about Islamophobia, where it comes from and how to combat it.
“We need to expose and reject the logic of laws and legal affiliations that aim to single out Muslims and use them as a scapegoat for our own political, social and economic challenges and failures,” he said. “We really need to think about the visibility of Muslims in our media because that will help us to prevent normalizing fear and alienation of Muslims.”
France is the home of “Liberté, Égalité et Fraternité” and the birthplace of the Rights of Man. But running simultaneously through the country’s political traditions is a much darker strain of racism and antisemitism. It looks as if a new, more virulent chapter in that history of French bigotry may now be opening — with a seemingly unlikely champion.
Éric Zemmour, a far-right polemicist who officially declared on Tuesday that he is running in next April’s presidential election, is the loudest and most extreme voice of French racism today. While his poll numbers have started to slide from their highs earlier this fall, Mr. Zemmour’s divisive campaign has resonated with a significant portion of voters and he is still among the leading candidates. He is capturing national headlines and unleashing vicious bigotry into the mainstream in a way unseen in years.
The great irony is that Mr. Zemmour, twice convicted of inciting racial hatred and discrimination, is a Jew — a member of the very community once targeted by the racists whose traditions he inherits and invokes. He has updated France’s oldest hatred for a new era.
The roots of the current French far right can be understood only in the context of its prehistory.
Religious antisemitism was long a staple of reactionary thought in France. In the 19th century, that turned into economic and political antisemitism, taking its definitive form around the time of the Dreyfus Affair, the scandal involving the Jewish military officer, Alfred Dreyfus, who was falsely accused and convicted of passing secrets to Germany. The battle between Dreyfus’s supporters and his accusers came to define French politics. The period brought with it the appearance of antisemitic newspapers like “La Libre Parole,” whose masthead featured the slogan “France for the French,” still a favorite of the French right. This movement lived on well into the 20th century. Its final chapter was the Nazi-aligned Vichy government and French participation in the roundup of Jews for deportation and murder.
After the Holocaust, antisemitism was no longer viable as a political movement — though it was never entirely expunged from society. With the advent of mass immigration from France’s former colonies, antisemitism was largely replaced by anti-Black and, especially, anti-Arab racism. Since the 1970s, the political voice of this racism has been the far-right National Front party, now rebranded as the National Rally as part of an attempt to enter the mainstream. This party has twice reached the second round of the presidential elections, in 2002 and 2017. Mr. Zemmour is now outflanking it from the right.
It doesn’t take much to see the roots of Mr. Zemmour’s ideology: his insistence that France is engaged in a religious war with Islam and a race war with its Black and Arab population; that entire neighborhoods of its major cities have been “colonized” by Muslims; that Islam is a religion of terror; that French Muslims must be made to choose between Islam and France (which he considers mutually exclusive). All of it is an updating of the Jew-hatred of a century and a quarter ago.
Rapper-activist Mona Haydar and husband Sebastian Robins star in ‘The Great Muslim American Road Trip’ for PBS
Mona Haydar and Sebastian Robins felt they had a deep understanding of Islam. But filming “The Great Muslim American Road Trip,” a docuseries that will air on PBS this summer, made the married couple realize how much more they had to learn.
Haydar, a Syrian American rapper and activist whose music videos boast millions of views on YouTube, grew up Muslim. Robins, a writer and educator, converted to Islam after they met. The show follows the couple as they traveled from Chicago to Los Angeles via historic Route 66 in September. Along the way, they learned about Islam’s roots in America, explored nearby Muslim communities and took in the sights. In Chicago, they met with Muhammad Ali’s daughter Maryum Ali and toured the Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower) to learn about structural engineer Fazlur Rahman Khan, known for his work on the innovative tubular design for high-rises. On more than a dozen stops, Haydar and Robins visited with restaurateurs, doctors and authors.
“This is a deep passion of ours; it’s our faith and our practice,” Haydar said. “And it really felt like this epic quest of learning and finding the clues and piecing them together.”
The couple garnered widespread attention for their “Ask a Muslim” project, following terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, Calif., in 2015. Outside a Cambridge Mass., library, they set up signs that invited passersby to “talk to a Muslim” and ask them questions over free doughnuts and coffee. Haydar’s song “Hijabi (Wrap My Hijab)” was also named one of 2017’s best protest songs by Billboard.
By The Way talked to the Michigan-based couple about the goals of their show, how the trip informed their feelings about identity and assimilation, and how they handled the long drive.
Q: How did the idea for the show come about?
Mona: It was an interesting call we got asking us if we were interested in taking a road trip across the country, and we kind of hopped on the opportunity. Having been a couple for almost a decade, and parents for basically eight of those years, for us it was an exciting opportunity to explore a little bit of Route 66 and also our own relationship.
Q: What did you learn about the Muslim American experience along the way?
Sebastian: I feel like from beginning to end, it was really kind of mind-blowing and -opening for us.
Mona: Our son listens to audiobooks, and he loves the ones about mysteries and solving the mystery. And it actually felt that way a little bit of the time to me, where we were on this epic quest to unearth the hidden secrets. We’re both highly educated people, and we both somehow were not educated at all about this particular topic.
Q: What do you hope viewers take away from the show?
Mona: I hope people laugh at us. We’re very kind of corny and we have our little inside jokes, and I hope that people feel let in on that because I think we’re funny and I think we have a funny rapport and banter. I hope that that’s what people take away, feeling a human connection in a time where so many of us were isolated for so long.
Sebastian: We really wanted to use that journey as a lens for something bigger. I hope people can kind of see that story through us, [with] us as this lens or this magnifying glass or this reflection booth, to tell the story of a group of people that has largely either been ignored or maligned. I don’t mean just celebrities like Malcolm X and Muhammad Ali, who deserve all the research and stories and movies they can get, but the people who are running restaurants, the people who are rebuilding mosques, the people who are —
Mona: Doctors and serving their communities.
That means a clever ad campaign paid for by the race’s lone Democrat — Asif Mahmood — didn’t work; the seat’s incumbent, Republican Rep. Young Kim, is advancing to the general alongside Mahmood.
Unofficial results from last week’s primary election as of Tuesday morning show Mahmood in first with 41% of ballots cast. Kim, who was drawn out of the state’s 39th Congressional District during last year’s reapportionment, is in second, with 34.5% of votes.
In the weeks leading up to Tuesday’s election, Mahmood spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on ads supporting Raths — a Mission Viejo city councilmember and staunch supporter of Donald Trump.
The thinking was that, by highlighting Raths’ conservative bona fides, he’d siphon enough votes away from Kim to the point where she finished third in the primary. That would have resulted in Mahmood and Raths advancing to the general election together — a good thing for Mahmood, since he’d have a tougher time beating the more moderate Kim.
Two things may have prevented Mahmood’s ploy from working. First, voters in the newly drawn district may not have found the Raths ads convincing, even though the new district — according to the Cook Political Report — is roughly six points friendlier to the GOP than the old 39th District. And second, national GOP leaders funneled nearly $700,000 dollars into the race on ads supporting Kim.
Buddhism, Islam and Judaism have the most followers after Christianity in most of states.
By Reid Wilson
In 20 states, mostly in the Midwest and South, Islam is the largest non-Christian faith tradition. And in 15 states, mostly in the Northeast, Judaism has the most followers after Christianity. Hindus come in second place in Arizona and Delaware, and there are more practitioners of the Baha’i faith in South Carolina than anyone else.
Christianity is by far the largest religion in the United States; more than three-quarters of Americans identify as Christians. A little more than half of us identify as Protestants, about 23 percent as Catholic and about 2 percent as Mormon.
But what about the rest of us? In the Western U.S., Buddhists represent the largest non-Christian religious bloc in most states. In 20 states, mostly in the Midwest and South, Islam is the largest non-Christian faith tradition. And in 15 states, mostly in the Northeast, Judaism has the most followers after Christianity. Hindus come in second place in Arizona and Delaware, and there are more practitioners of the Baha’i faith in South Carolina than anyone else.
All these data come from the Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies, which conducts a U.S. Religion Census every 10 years.
The data the ASARB release every 10 years are revealing: Adherents to any religious faith — that is, those who actually attend religious services — make up more than half the population in 28 states. Utah has the highest percentage of adherents, at 79 percent of the population, while just over a quarter of Mainers are adherents. North Dakota, Alabama and Louisiana are near the top of the list, while Oregon, Vermont, Alaska, Nevada and Washington sit near the bottom of the rankings.
Catholicism dominates the Northeast and the Southwest, and Southern Baptists have a strong foothold in the South. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints dominates Utah and surrounding counties in Idaho, Wyoming and parts of Nevada. Lutheranism has a strong following in Minnesota and the Dakotas, while Methodists make their presence felt in parts of West Virginia, Iowa, Nebraska and Kansas.
BY NEHA SAHGAL AND BESHEER MOHAMED
The vast majority of people across 15 countries in Western Europe and in the United States say they would be willing to accept Muslims as neighbors. Slightly lower shares on both sides of the Atlantic say they would be willing to accept a Muslim as a family member.
At the same time, there is no consensus on whether Islam fits into these societies. Across Western Europe, people are split on Islam’s compatibility with their country’s culture and values, according to a 2017 Pew Research Center survey. And in the U.S., public opinion remains about evenly divided on whether Islam is part of mainstream American society and if Islam is compatible with democracy, according to a 2017 poll.
The vast majority of non-Muslim Americans (89%) say they would be willing to accept Muslims as neighbors, according to a new Pew Research Center survey. The same survey finds that most people (79%) say they would be willing to accept Muslims as members of their family.
In Western Europe, most people also say they would be willing to accept Muslim neighbors. However, Europeans are less likely than Americans to say they would be willing to accept Muslims as family members. While about two-thirds of non-Muslim French people (66%) say they would accept a Muslim in their family, just over half of British (53%), Austrian (54%) and German (55%) adults say this. Italians are the least likely in Europe to say they would be willing to accept a Muslim family member (43%).
Surveys in both the U.S. and Western Europe were conducted on the telephone, and due to the tendency of some respondents to give socially acceptable responses, may overstate the share of people willing to accept others (also known as social desirability bias).
In both the U.S. and Europe, the surveys find higher acceptance of Muslims among those with more education. In the U.S., for example, 86% of adults with a college degree would be willing to accept a Muslim into their family; among Americans without a college degree, this share falls to 75%. Similarly, in Germany, a majority of those with a college education (67%) say they would be willing to accept a Muslim in their family, compared with roughly half (52%) among those without one. The same pattern is present in other countries, such as the UK (71% vs. 44%) and Austria (67% vs. 51%).
On both sides of the Atlantic, attitudes toward Muslims are tied to politics, even after taking education, age and other demographic factors into account. In Western Europe, those who lean toward the right of the European political spectrum have less accepting views than those who lean toward the left. Likewise, in the U.S., those who identify with or lean toward the Democratic Party are more likely than Republicans and Republican leaners to say they would be willing to accept a Muslim family member (88% vs. 67%). Still, majorities among both Democrats and Republicans say they would be willing to accept Muslims in their lives. Additional analysis of how other demographic factors (such as religion) are correlated with these kinds of attitudes in Europe can be found here.
Abdelnasser Rashid and Nabeela Syed are projected to win the elections to represent State House District 21 and State House District 51, respectively. They would be the first Muslims elected to the Illinois State Legislature.
If Nabilah Islam prevails, she would represent State Senate District 7 in Georgia. On the State House side, Ruwa Romman is the projected winner to represent District 97. Islam would be the first Muslim woman elected to the State Senate while Romman would be the first Muslim woman elected to the State House of Representatives.
Munira Abdullahi does not have a challenger in the general election for State House District 9 in Ohio, and has become the first Muslim elected to the Ohio State Legislature. Ismail Mohammad, a Democrat running for State House District 3 would join her if he wins.
Democrat Mana Abdi made history when she was elected to represent State House District 95 in Maine. If South Portland Mayor Deqa Dhalac prevails in the State House District 120 race, she could join Abdi.
Former Euless City Councilor Salman Bhojani, a Democrat, is running for Texas House District 92 and is projected to win. He would be the first Muslim elected to the Texas State Legislature should he prevail and could be joined by Suleman Lalani, who is leading the race to represent State House District 76.
This midterm election had 145 Muslim candidates running for local, state and federal office in the general election, including 48 state legislative candidates running in 23 states. Not all races have a clear winner yet. According to Jetpac, currently, 29 Muslim state legislators serve in 18 states.
“Tonight’s historic string of record-breaking American Muslim electoral victories is a testament to our community’s ongoing rise in American politics and the trust our neighbors have placed in us to represent them and fight for their interests," CAIR national executive director Nihad Awad said.
"We are witnessing the next step in the American Muslim community’s political transformation from marginalized voices that were sidelined, or worse, to decision-makers. These newly elected officials are building upon the success of our community’s decades-long investment in civic engagement, voter registration and running for office." – Middle East Eye
Former Marine Richard “Mac” McKinney was determined to bomb the local Islamic center in Muncie, Indiana. But the kindness he was shown there not only made him drop his plans but eventually become a member of the community.
The story is told in the short film “Stranger at the Gate” which has just made the shortlist for an Oscar nomination for Best Documentary Short Film.
We revisit Robin Young’s September 2022 conversation with McKinney and Bibi Bahrami, co-founder of the Islamic Center of Muncie.
A Veteran’s Islamophobia Transformed, in “Stranger at the Gate”
In Joshua Seftel’s documentary, a community recollects how a would-be terrorist made—and then abandoned—a violent plan.\
Joshua Seftel, the director of “Stranger at the Gate,” was going to be a physician. As a young man, he planned to travel the world in the ranks of Doctors Without Borders. His father was a doctor, and, as a boy, Seftel watched him save people’s lives. During a gap year between college and applying to medical school, a professor approached him about a story in Romania. With a borrowed video camera and some fund-raising, Seftel made the film “Lost and Found,” an unflinching look at the country’s state-run orphanages. “Wow,” he thought, “filmmaking, when you do it right, can be really powerful.”
In his new documentary, Seftel brings the camera home and follows a personal drama that embodies a societal collision. The film opens on a teen-ager addressing the camera. “Most of the time when I tell people this story, they tell me that they don’t believe me,” she says. The speaker, Emily McKinney, is the stepdaughter of the man at the center of the documentary, Richard (Mac) McKinney. Emily is referring to Mac’s plan to set off an I.E.D. at a mosque, the Islamic Center of Muncie, Indiana.
Mac, a white combat veteran, describes his twilight tour in the military during the early and violent years of the global war on terror, and his abrupt return to small-town Indiana, in 2006. Reëntering civilian life, he became livid, and obsessed with the local Muslim community. During the periods he describes as “between being drunk and sober,” he brainstormed how he could attack Muslims—an action he thought of as continuing to protect his family and serve his country. His answer was to make a bomb. He describes making a plan for how he could “get the most bang for my buck” by targeting his local mosque, where he hoped to injure or kill at least two hundred worshippers. When he set out on a reconnaissance mission and visited the mosque—“to get the proof” of their threat—his story took a surprising turn.
McKinney met the Bahrami family, co-founders of the center and themselves refugees of the Soviet Union’s ill-fated war in Afghanistan; and Jomo Williams, a Black local convert. The relationships were not easy ones—“These people were killers,” McKinney remembers thinking—but the members of the mosque saw that McKinney was troubled, and welcomed him.
The mayor of a borough in New Jersey said Tuesday that he was barred from attending a White House celebration marking the Islamic holiday of Eid al-Fitr and was informed of the decision just hours before his arrival.
Mohamed T. Khairullah, who is Muslim and is serving his fifth term as mayor of Prospect Park, N.J., submitted his name for clearance by federal officials, as is typical for attendees at White House events, he said. But a White House staffer told Khairullah on Monday that his name had not been cleared by the Secret Service, which “did not provide a reason,” the mayor said at a news conference Tuesday.
“While we regret any inconvenience this may have caused, the mayor was not allowed to enter the White House complex this evening,” Anthony Guglielmi, chief of communications for the U.S. Secret Service, said in a statement Monday. “Unfortunately we are not able to comment further on the specific protective means and methods used to conduct our security operations at the White House.”
“I’ve been to the White House complex, prior,” Khairullah said Tuesday, adding that he poses “no risk” to anyone.
Khairullah — whose biography says he is the longest-serving Muslim mayor in New Jersey — was born in Syria but fled with his family in 1980 to Saudi Arabia before moving to the United States in 1991.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre on Tuesday referred inquiries about the episode to the Secret Service. Jean-Pierre said that she attended the event along with nearly 400 Muslim people and that “it was a meaningful event, an opportunity to celebrate along with Muslim leaders from across the country who were here.”
At Monday’s event, President Biden told attendees, “Welcome to your home.” He thanked Muslims who have contributed to American society, as “teachers, engineers, as doctors, as lawyers, business owners, congresswomen, congressmen,” as well as in the military and law enforcement.
“Muslim culture,” Biden said, “is woven throughout the American culture.”
New Jersey Democrats, Sens. Robert Menendez and Cory Booker, and Rep. Robert Menendez Jr., sent a letter Tuesday to the head of the Secret Service, and to a top White House official in charge of social events, demanding answers about Khairullah’s treatment.
“We ask for you to provide our offices with information” describing “what occurred and why,” the lawmakers wrote. They also said the federal officials to review “Mayor Khairullah’s status so that in the future he may be able to attend events and represent his constituents at the People’s House.”
The New Jersey chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations condemned Khairullah’s exclusion from the White House event.
“That a well-respected Muslim leader would effectively be disinvited from the White House Eid celebration, just hours ahead of time, is wholly unacceptable and insulting,” Selaedin Maksut, the chapter’s executive director, said in a statement.
At the news conference Tuesday, Khairullah said the episode was confounding, considering his previous experience attending events with top federal officials. He said he has been at other events featuring “former presidents, where Secret Service was available. And I was able to approach presidents, shake hands with them.”