Muslim mayor blocked from White House Eid celebration
Mayor Mohamed Khairullah has been an outspoken critic of former President Donald Trump’s travel ban that restricted entry to the US for citizens from several predominantly Muslim countries.
The US Secret Service has prevented a Muslim mayor from attending a White House celebration with President Joe Biden to mark the belated end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
Shortly before he was due to arrive at the White House on Monday for Eid al-Fitr celebrations, Mayor Mohamed Khairullah said he received a call from the White House stating that he had not been allowed entry by the Secret Service and could not attend the celebration. , where Biden made remarks to hundreds of guests.
He said the White House official did not explain why the Secret Service blocked his access. Khairullah, 47, informed the New Jersey chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations after being told he would not be allowed to attend the event.
The group has called on the Biden administration to stop the FBI from disseminating information from what is known as a “terrorist screening data set” that includes hundreds of thousands of individuals. The group informed Khairullah that an individual with his name and date of birth was in a dataset obtained by his lawyers in 2019.
Khairullah has been an outspoken critic of former President Donald Trump’s travel ban, which restricted entry to the US for citizens from several predominantly Muslim countries. He has also traveled to Bangladesh and Syria to do humanitarian work with the Syrian American Medical Society and the Watan Foundation.
“It left me stunned, shocked and disappointed,” Khairullah said in a telephone interview while on his way home to New Jersey.
“It’s not a matter of ‘I didn’t go to a party.’ That’s why I didn’t go. And it’s a list that attacked me for my identity. And I don’t think the highest office in the United States should have such profiling,” he said.
Secret Service spokesman Anthony Guglielmi confirmed that Khairullah had not been allowed into the White House complex, but declined to say why.
“While we regret the inconvenience this has caused, the mayor was not allowed to enter the White House complex tonight,” Guglielmi said in a statement. “Unfortunately, we are unable to comment further on the specific protective devices and methods used to conduct our White House security operations.”
The White House declined to comment.
‘We felt very powerless’
Selaedin Maksut, executive director of the New Jersey chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, called the move “completely unacceptable and offensive.”
“When incidents like this happen to high-profile and respected American-Muslim figures like Mayor Khairullah, it begs the question: What happens to Muslims who don’t have the access and visibility that the mayor has?” Maksut asked.
Khairullah said he was stopped by authorities in 2019, questioned for three hours at New York’s John F Kennedy International Airport and asked if he knew “terrorists”. The incident happened when he returned to the United States after a family visit to Turkey, where his wife has relatives.
On another occasion, he said he was briefly detained at the US-Canadian border while traveling with family back to the country.
The group said Khairullah helped the New Jersey Democratic Party collect names of local Muslim leaders to invite to the Eid celebration at the White House and was a guest at an event at the governor’s mansion this weekend. from New Jersey.
Khairullah was born in Syria, but his family was expelled in the early 1980s during the government crackdown by Hafez al-Assad’s government. His family fled to Saudi Arabia before moving to New Jersey in 1991. He has lived there ever since.
He became a US citizen in 2000 and was elected to his first term as mayor in 2001. He also worked as a volunteer firefighter for 14 years.
Khairullah said he made seven trips to Syria from 2012 to 2015 with humanitarian aid agencies as civil war ravaged much of the country.
“I’m Syrian and you know it was very hard to see what we saw on TV and social media and not react to help people,” he said. “I mean, we felt very helpless.”