In a controversial move, the U.S. Secret Service has prevented the Muslim mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, Mohamed Khairullah, from attending a White House celebration with President Joe Biden to mark the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. The Secret Service did not provide any explanation as to why they had blocked Khairullah’s entry.
Shortly before he was due to arrive at the White House for the Eid-al-Fitr celebration, Khairullah received a call from a White House official stating that he had not been cleared for entry by the Secret Service and could not attend the celebration where Biden delivered remarks to hundreds of guests. Khairullah, who was elected to a fifth term as the borough’s mayor in January, was left baffled, shocked, and disappointed by the news.
“It’s not a matter of I didn’t get to go to a party. It’s why I did not go. And it’s a list that has targeted me because of my identity. And I don’t think the highest office in the United States should be down with such profiling,” Khairullah said in a telephone interview.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) informed Khairullah that a person with his name and birthdate was in a dataset that CAIR attorneys obtained in 2019. This dataset is known as a Terrorist Screening Data Set and includes hundreds of thousands of individuals. The group has called on the Biden administration to cease the FBI’s dissemination of this information.
Khairullah was an outspoken critic of President Donald Trump’s travel ban that limited entry to the U.S. of citizens from several predominantly Muslim countries. He has also done humanitarian work with the Syrian American Medical Society and the Watan Foundation in Bangladesh and Syria.
Selaedin Maksut, executive director of the New Jersey chapter of CAIR, called the move “wholly unacceptable and insulting.” Maksut added that “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?”
U.S. Secret Service spokesman Anthony Guglielmi confirmed that Khairullah was not allowed into the White House complex, but declined to detail why. Guglielmi stated that “while we regret any inconvenience this may have caused, the mayor was not allowed to enter the White House complex this evening. 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.”
The White House declined to comment on the matter.
This is not the first time that Khairullah has been subject to discrimination. In 2019, he was stopped by authorities and interrogated at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York for three hours and questioned about whether he knew any terrorists. The incident occurred when he was returning to the United States after a family visit to Turkey where his wife has family. On another occasion, he was briefly held at the U.S.-Canada border as he traveled back into the country with family.
Khairullah has lived in Prospect Park since 1991. He was born in Syria, but his family was displaced in the midst of the government crackdowns by Hafez al-Assad’s government in the early 1980s.