Mission & Name
US Foreign Policy (Dr. El-Najjar's Articles)
Muslims seeking greater influence:
Effort puts resumes of top candidates in White
By Noreen S. Ahmed-Ullah
Chicago Tribune, April 8, 2009
In a bid to get more Muslim Americans working in the Obama
administration, a book with resumes of 45 of the nation's most qualified—Ivy
League grads, Fortune 500 executives and public servants, all carefully
vetted—has been submitted to the White House.
The effort, driven by
community leaders and others, including Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), was
bumped up two weeks ahead of schedule because White House officials heard
about the venture, said J. Saleh Williams, program coordinator for the
Congressional Muslim Staffers Association who sifted through more than 300
"It was mostly under the radar," Williams said. "We thought it
would put [the president] in a precarious position. We didn't know how
closely he wanted to appear to be working with the Muslim American
The effort aims to get the administration focused on
Muslim Americans, a group that has at times felt like a pariah. During the
campaign, Obama's staff prevented Muslim women wearing head scarves from
being photographed behind him, in one of many incidents that left Muslim
Americans feeling slighted by the candidate.
Americans—who according to a recent study overwhelmingly backed Obama in the
November election—have been carefully watching the administration's every
Most expressed disappointment with Obama's initial silence
during Israel's offensive in Gaza. They've been encouraged by the video
message the president issued recently to the Iranian people on the eve of
the Persian holiday of Nowruz, and they want more diplomacy with Syria and
Iran. They've been troubled by FBI admissions of sending what activists call
"agents provocateurs" into mosques, and the bureau's break in ties with
Muslim American organizations such as the Council on American-Islamic
Community leaders hope the White House will consider
Muslim Americans for posts in the administration. They say this is not just
a chance for Muslim Americans to show their patriotism but also a chance for
the country to engage the community and recognize its importance. There are
an estimated 7 million to 8 million Muslims in America, but there have not
been any Muslims appointed to key positions, as yet.
A White House
aide confirmed the Obama administration had received the resumes, noting
that it is "not unusual" for the administration to consider lists of job
candidates suggested by constituent groups.
"We're still very much in
the middle of the [hiring] process, even when it comes to very senior
government employees. These things take time, and they're all based on
finding the right fit," said the aide, who declined to be identified because
he is not authorized to speak publicly for the administration.
"Muslims are not looking for handouts," said Abdul Malik Mujahid, the
Downers Grove founder of the Muslim Democrats, who points to Zalmay
Khalilzad, tapped by former President George W. Bush for many key roles.
"We're just looking for equal opportunity and inclusiveness. That will give
a far better message to the Muslim world than speeches."
founder and executive director of the Chicago-based Interfaith Youth Core,
said Muslims need to ask themselves what they can do for their country.
"While that question would have made many feel squeamish in the Bush
administration, asking that question in the Obama administration should
elevate us," said Patel, who was recently appointed to the president's
advisory council on faith-based and neighborhood partnerships. "During the
era of Obama, it feels right to ask and answer that question."
Muslims, such as Rami Nashashibi, executive director of the Inner-City
Muslim Action Network in Chicago's Marquette Park area, are ready to serve.
He said he wants the administration to listen to activists on domestic
issues such as housing or helping ex-offenders re-enter communities. Muslim
Americans have a lot more to offer than just feedback on foreign policy or
national security issues, Nashashibi said.
Obama is off to a good
start, said Ellison, the first Muslim member of Congress—the second being
Rep. Andre Carson (D-Ind.).
"He's done a lot, and I believe he will
do more," Ellison said, adding that "I identify with the impatience. I want
to see things happen faster."
Some hope Atty. Gen. Eric Holder will
reverse Bush administration actions such as the FBI's decision to break
formal ties with CAIR because it was named as an unindicted co-conspirator
in the case involving the Texas-based Holy Land Foundation.
hoping that once Eric Holder puts the department in order and places people
in different positions, we can re-establish what were very positive
relations [with the FBI] in our 15-year history," said CAIR spokesman
Many Muslim American leaders are telling members of
their community to remain realistic.
Obama is "not going to be a
magicmaker," said Imad Hamad, Midwest director of the American-Arab
Anti-Discrimination Committee in Michigan. "The chilling effects that this
community has endured over the last eight years with the erosion of civil
liberties will not end within the first six months of this administration.
People are not going to witness a major switch in certain policies."
Tribune correspondent Mike Dorning contributed to this report from
This article was first published on March 29, 2009, at: