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 names.
"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 community."
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.
Now, Muslim Americans—who according to a recent study overwhelmingly backed Obama in the November election—have been carefully watching the administration's every step.
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 Relations.
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." . . .
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.
"We're 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 Ibrahim Hooper. (More)