The Muslim mayor of a small New Jersey town says he was denied entry to the White House on Monday for a belated Eid al-Fitr celebration with President Joe Biden.

Prospect Park Mayor Mohamed T Khairullah said he received a call from the White House shortly before his arrival, informing him that the Secret Service had not cleared him into the event where Biden made remarks to hundreds of guests. It is unclear why the Secret Service blocked the mayor’s entrance.

Driving home to New Jersey on Monday night, Khairullah told the Associated Press that the snub left him “bewildered, shocked and disappointed”.

“It’s not a matter of not being able to go to a party,” he said. “That’s why I didn’t go. And it is a list that has attacked me because of my identity. And I don’t think the highest office in the United States should agree to such a profile.”

“I guess I was accused of something again,” Khairullah told News 12 New Jersey, referring to a 2019 incident in which he was detained and questioned for hours at JFK International Airport as he and his family were returning to the US from a trip to Turkey. The longtime mayor described the arrest as a “painful moment where I think in my mind that this is not the America that I know.” he said He noted that he has flown internationally other times without incident.

Khairullah’s ordeal sparked a backlash online, as Muslim advocacy groups condemned the slight, calling it “government overreach.”

“We call on the White House to revoke the Secret Service and reinstate the mayor’s invitation, dissolve the secret watch list, and issue an apology to the mayor,” the New Jersey chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR- NJ) he said in a statement. “If these incidents are happening to high-profile and well-respected American Muslim figures like Mayor Khairullah, then the question arises: what is happening to Muslims who don’t have the access and visibility that the mayor has?”

Muslim mayor barred from White House
Guests pray during a reception Monday celebrating the belated Eid-al-Fitr, which marked the end of Ramadan, in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC Mohamed T Khairullah, mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, says that you were denied entry to the event
Alex Wong/Getty Images

Khairullah is the longest-serving Muslim mayor in New Jersey. Born in Syria, Khairullah was first elected mayor of the district of about 6,000 people in 2005, just five years after becoming a US citizen. He won a fifth term in 2022.

Secret Service spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said in a statement to news week The agency is unable to comment further or provide an update.

“While we regret any inconvenience this may have caused, the mayor was not allowed into the White House complex tonight,” Guglielmi said. “Unfortunately, we are unable to comment further on the specific means and methods of protection used to conduct our White House security operations.”

news week Khairullah and CAIR have been contacted by email for comment.

Khairullah’s revocation of the invitation was “totally unacceptable and insulting,” CAIR-NJ Executive Director Selaedin Maksut said in a statement. He highlighted the mayor’s recent accolades, including recognition for his long tenure in the role in which he was recently among New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy’s “distinguished guests” at the governor’s mansion.

“Today, in an affront to the Muslim community and the American public at large, and in what could be perceived as continued use of the secret watch list, Mayor Khairullah was denied entry by the Secret Service on the grounds that he did not had been cleared by security,” she said.

CAIR has urged the Biden administration to suspend the FBI’s release of two of its watch listswhich are, Maksut said, “almost entirely lists of Arab and Muslim names.”

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