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Muslim mayor says he was blocked from Eid al-Fitr event at White House


Longtime Prospect Park, New Jersey, Mayor Mohamed Khairullah says he was blocked from attending a White House celebration to mark the end of Ramadan by the Secret Service.

Khairullah, a Syrian-born Muslim, has been the Democratic mayor of the borough of 6,300 for 17 years.

The White House invited him to its Eid al-Fitr celebration on Monday, and he was on his way when he was called and told he had not been cleared by the Secret Service, he said. he declares.

Image: Mayor Mohamed Khairullah says he was racially profiled at an airport after returning from Turkey in August.
Prospect Park, New Jersey, Mayor Mohamed Khairullah.Mayor Khairullah / via YouTube

“I don’t know the reason,” Khairullah said Monday night. “I’m baffled.”

Khairullah said he believed his name was mistakenly on an FBI list and had caused him travel problems in the past, but he believed it had been resolved. But the agencies never gave him many details, and they offered no way to fix it.

The Secret Service confirmed on Monday that Khairullah was not allowed to enter the White House complex but would not say why.

“While we regret any inconvenience this may have caused, the mayor was not permitted to enter the White House complex for tonight’s event,” communications chief Anthony Guglielmi said in a statement. communicated.

“Unfortunately, we cannot provide additional comment on the details surrounding the means and methods of protection used at the White House,” Guglielmi said.

Eid al-Fitr marks the end of Islam’s holy month, Ramadan, which is a month of fasting.

President Joe Biden attended the event and thanked Muslims for their contributions to the United States

Among the guests was Khizr Khan, the father of the Gold Star whose son Humayun Khan, an army captain, was killed by a car bomb in 2004 while guarding the gates of his base in Iraq. Imam Makhdoom Zia, founder and executive director of MakeSpace, an Islamic cultural center and center of learning in Washington, DC, was also present.

Khairullah said he had travel problems before.

He has been involved in relief efforts in the Middle East and said he has visited Syria seven times since the 2011 unrest escalated into a civil war.

But after Border Patrol agents questioned him after returning from Turkey to the United States in 2019 and after another hold-up in Canada, Khairullah said he believed the problem had been resolved. He traveled abroad last year with no problem, he said.

“I can’t clear my name. They used to say we couldn’t deny or confirm that you were on a list, and if there’s such a list, there’s no way to tell us how to clear it. my name,” Khairullah said. “It’s a catch-22.”

Khairullah said the invitation from the White House was gracious. He said the incident could show that there is still some discrimination from federal agencies.

“I think there’s an opportunity to do the right thing,” he said.

Prospect Park is a borough of New Jersey located approximately 15 miles west of New York. Khairullah was first elected mayor in November 2005.

Kelly O’Donnell contributed.

Joanna Swanson

Joanna Swanson is Europe correspondent at the Thomson Reuters Foundation based in Brussels covering politics, culture, business, climate change, society, economies and inclusive tech. With specific focus in breaking news, she has covered some of the world's most significant stories.