Muslim Mayor denied entry to White House Eid event, raises concerns of ‘secret list’
The US Secret Service prevented a Muslim mayor from attending President Joe Biden's Eid al-Fitr event at the White House.
Mohamed Khairullah, the longest-serving Muslim mayor in New Jersey, was informed by the Secret Service while en route to the event that he was not cleared for entry.
Biden addressed hundreds of guests at the event, which featured recitations from the Holy Quran and saw the President emphasise the significance of US Muslims.
Khairullah said he requested further details from federal officials about why he was denied entry but they refused to disclose any information.
"It's disappointing and it's shocking that this continues to happen under our constitution which provides that everyone is innocent unless proven guilty," Khairullah, told NewJersey.com. "I honestly don't know what my charge, if you want to put it that way, is at this point, to be treated in such a manner."
Anthony Guglielmi, a spokesman for the U.S. Secret Service, confirmed that Khairullah was denied entry to the White House but did not provide further information on the reason.
"While we regret any inconvenience this may have caused, the mayor was not allowed to enter the White House complex this evening," Guglielmi said in a statement. "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."
Khairullah was re-elected for his fifth term as mayor of his borough in January.
Khairullah told the New Jersey chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) of what happened. It prompted the organisation to review a leaked copy of the federal terrorist screening dataset, which includes information on people suspected of engaging in terrorist activities.
CAIR informed Khairullah that his name and birthdate appeared in the dataset.
“There is a secret list I can't clear my name from and it still haunts me and follows me where I go,” he said to NewJersey.com.
Selaedin Maksut, CAIR-NJ executive director, called the move "wholly unacceptable and insulting.
"If these such incidents are happening to high-profile and well-respected American-Muslim figures like Mayor Khairullah, this then begs the question: what is happening to Muslims who do not have the access and visibility that the mayor has?" Maksut said.
Khairullah, born in Syria and fleeing persecution as a teenager, came to the United States with his parents in the 1990s. He has a history of humanitarian work, having served as a volunteer firefighter and delivered aid to refugees in Syria and Bangladesh.
In 2019, he was detained at John F. Kennedy International Airport for three hours after returning from a trip to Turkey with his family and questioned about whether he knew any terrorists.
"Hush up, boy"
It was not the only controversy from the event. President Biden faced backlash for telling a guest at the White House to "hush up, boy."
An attendee interrupted President Biden's speech. In response, the President said: "Hush up, boy, as my mother would say," imitating a Southern drawl, which prompted awkward laughter from the audience.
The term "boy" has a racially charged history; it has been used as a racist slur against black people. It is not the first time President Biden has been criticised for using the term.
During the event, Biden listened to the recitation of the Quran and spoke about his admiration of those who observe Ramadan.
"Fasting from dawn to dusk is not easy," said Biden. "No food. No water. Sleep-deprived from late-night prayers, waking up early before dawn. It's a period of testing and sacrifice that brings you closer to others who suffer and strengthens those — your resolve to help build a better world. It demands patience and determination."
He also used the occasion to talk about his administration's determination to confront Islamophobia.
"This is a priority for my administration, which is why I established an interagency task force to address attacks on Muslims and anti-Muslim bias and discrimination," he said.