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'I was shocked': Muslim mayor denied entry to White House Eid event

According to the White House, Mohamed Khairullah was not cleared for entry by the Secret Service
Mayor Mohamed Khairullah attends 'Cries From Syria' screening in Jersey City, New Jersey, on 3 May 2017 (AFP)

A Muslim mayor from New Jersey was barred from attending a White House Eid celebration with President Joe Biden on Sunday. 

“This was a surprise,” Mohamed Khairullah, the mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, told Middle East Eye. “I did receive an invitation and then I received a second request to confirm. So I was shocked.”

Khairullah said he received a call shortly before arriving at the White House informing him that he had not been cleared for entry by the secret service and could not attend the Eid celebration. No explanation was provided, he said.

“While we regret any inconvenience this may have caused, the mayor was not allowed to enter the White House complex this evening,” Anthony Guglielmi, the US Secret Service spokesperson 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.”

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In January, a Swiss hacker reportedly gained access to two lists, the no-fly list and the selectee list, after a regional American airline left them on a data server and exposed online. According to Cair, a person with Khairullah’s name and birthday was in the dataset.

The list, which was from 2019, contained about 1.5 million entries. The Council on American-Islamic Relations (Cair), which obtained copies of the no-fly list, said the contents showed it contained mostly Muslim and Arab names, showing that the FBI was disproportionately targeting the Muslim community. 

Khairullah says in 2019 he was once stopped at JFK International Airport and detained for nearly three hours. 

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“The White House has an opportunity right now to correct what was created during the prior administration. The White House needs to take a strong stand against a list that is deemed to be illegal by a federal judge,” Khairullah told MEE.

“They have the opportunity to correct errors of the previous administration. They have an opportunity to demonstrate that they do stand with diverse America, that they do stand with minorities, that they do stand with immigrants.”

'Grossed out' 

Some Muslims on social media criticised Muslims who attended the White House Eid celebration, with some saying they were "grossed out".

"You have no shame attending an Eid party with a president who’s a self-declared Zionist and a war criminal?” one Muslim said on Twitter.

Khairullah says he understands the criticism. During the Obama administration, he refused to go to the White House for a Ramadan event because of Obama’s “stance on Syria”, he said.

“I can understand different people have different emotions. And it could be based on their principles,” he said. “But I don't believe that 100 percent of us should boycott any given entity and government. That's not how we build bridges.”

Cair-New Jersey is calling on the White House to disband the watchlist and issue an apology to Khairullah.

"If 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?" Selaedin Maksut, the executive director of Cair-New Jersey said in a statement.

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