Muslim Mayor Turned Away by WH: 'My Crime Is My Name'

New Jersey's Mohamed Khairullah, spurned from Eid event, says he's on a 'secret list'
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted May 3, 2023 9:45 AM CDT

A New Jersey mayor is seeking answers as to why he was invited, then turned away from an Eid celebration at the White House, and he's alleging it's because his name was on the wrong list. At a Tuesday press conference, Prospect Park Mayor Mohamed Khairullah says he was on his way Monday to the White House to attend the event and wasn't far from his destination when a call came in from someone in the White House's social office, per NBC New York. "We started [with] small talk, then he informed me that the Secret Service did not clear me to attend the White House Eid celebration," Khairullah, now in his fifth term as mayor, said.

A Secret Service rep concedes that Khairullah wasn't permitted into the event attended by prominent Muslim leaders, but the agency is staying tight-lipped on why. "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," Anthony Guglielmi notes, adding the Secret Service "[regrets] any inconvenience this may have caused," per The Syrian-born mayor, 47, who came to the US via Saudi Arabia in 1991, alleges it's because he's on a "secret list I can't clear my name from," and that he believes he's been on said FBI watchlist since 2019, when he was detained at JFK Airport after returning from a family trip to Turkey.

Khairullah, who's been the mayor of Prospect Park for 17 years—making him the longest-serving Muslim mayor in the Garden State—says he was also detained at the Canadian border two years ago. "My crime is my name," Khairullah says, adding that his efforts to find out why he might be on such a list have come up empty. The Council on American Islamic Relations says it obtained a leaked copy in January of the FBI watchlist, which was made up of almost all "Arabic and Muslim names." The group said it spotted a name and date of birth identical to Khairullah's on the list.

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CAIR is condemning the blocking of Khairullah from the White House's Eid al-Fitr event to celebrate the end of Ramadan, and those who've long known Khairullah, an ex-volunteer firefighter who also delivers aid to overseas refugees, are standing up for him. "I hope this was a misunderstanding. I hope this says nothing about our Muslim community," New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, who notes he's a longtime friend of Khairullah's, tells NBC. The White House hasn't commented. (More White House stories.)

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