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Tipsheet

Muslim NJ Mayor Blocked From WH Event. Here's What He Had to Say About It.

AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

Prospect Park, New Jersey, Mayor Mohamed Khairullah is speaking out after being blocked from attending a White House event celebrating Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of Ramadan. 

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The Democrat, who has served as mayor of the Passaic County town for 17 years, said he got a call about an hour before the event and was told Secret Service did not clear him, though no reason was provided.

Khairullah alleged it’s because his name is on a federal government “watch list.” 

The New Jersey chapter of CAIR pointed to a heavily redacted document from the federal government that was leaked several years ago, which has Khairullah's name on it. It may stem from an incident four years ago, in which Khairullah and his young son were detained for three hours at JFK Airport — and his phone confiscated for nearly two weeks — after returning from a family visit to Turkey.

While it was not clear how he got on the supposed watch list, Khairullah went several times to Syria to help family members and others who were made refugees by the Arab Spring revolt in that country. Since that time, the mayor has helped other groups in the U.S. involved in humanitarian aid as well. (NBC News New York)

“At this point, our crimes are our names, ethnicities, and religion,” Khairullah said during press conference on Tuesday. “I call on President Biden to correct the injustices of the previous administrations by disbanding this illegal list and correcting ill-advised and racist policies.”

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“I have no due process to clear my name,” he added. “This is an unintelligent dragnet.”

Selaedin Maksut, the executive director of CAIR New Jersey, wondered what is happening to average Muslim citizens.

"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?" he said in a statement. 

New Jersey Democrats vowed to find out why he was barred from the event. 

At an unrelated event Tuesday morning, Democratic New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said he spoke with Khairullah the evening before. The governor noted that Khairullaha — who he called an “outstanding American” — attended an event at the governor’s mansion in Princeton celebrating Eid this past weekend.

“We’re trying to figure out exactly what happened as we speak,” he told reporters. “As you can imagine, I spoke to Muhammad last night. He’s a very close personal friend of mine.”

Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) said he was “profoundly disappointed” that the mayor was barred from entering the event.

“I believe excluding him was the wrong decision,” Booker said in a statement. “This incident is not just insulting to our ideals and to Mayor Khairullah but also to the community he serves.”

Booker, Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-Passaic), whose district includes Prospect Park, also sent a letter to the Secret Service on Tuesday asking why the mayor was denied entry to the White House and to review his status so it doesn’t happen again.

“Mayor Khairullah is a devoted public servant, close friend and the longest-serving Muslim mayor in New Jersey, proudly serving his community for over 17 years. As a former volunteer firefighter, Mayor Khairullah has continuously demonstrated dedication to public safety,” the lawmakers wrote.

They did not mention anything about a “watch list,” but ended the letter: “We have long appreciated the work of the Biden administration to erase xenophobic policies of the past and turn a new chapter for America.” (Politico)

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“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 NorthJersey.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.”

Maksut said the incident presents an opportunity to end the watch lists. 

“Today is an opportunity for the nation for the government to consider an opportunity to disband the watch list once and for all,” he said.

 

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