A Muslim mayor denounces his ban from entering the White House to celebrate Eid al-Fitr and says there is a “watch list” targeting nearly 1.5 million Muslims
New Jersey Mayor Muhammad Tahir Khairullah, who was barred from coming to the White House this week to celebrate Eid al-Fitr, called on the US administration on Tuesday to end a federal “watch list” that he said illegally targets Muslims.
During a news conference Tuesday at the South Plainfield, New Jersey chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-NJ), Prospect Park Mayor Muhammad Khairullah and several other speakers condemned the list as illegal, discriminatory and unconstitutional.
They also called on the US Secret Service and other federal agencies to stop using and distributing the list, which the group says includes more than 1.5 million names, the majority of which are Arab or Islamic.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations also called on the Biden administration to stop the FBI publishing information from what is known as the terrorist screening dataset that includes hundreds of thousands of individuals. The group informed Khairallah that a person with his name and date of birth was in a dataset obtained by CAIR lawyers in 2019.
Shortly before he arrived at the White House to celebrate Eid al-Fitr on Monday, Khairallah said he received a call from the White House saying he was not being allowed in by the intelligence service and that he was unable to attend the ceremony sessions where Biden delivered remarks to the guests.
Khairullah, who was elected to a fifth term as mayor of his hometown in January, said he had no idea why his information was on the list, adding that “there is no reason to think I am an unsafe person”. He indicated that he had been arrested several times and interrogated while traveling, which he described as “humiliating” experiences.
Khairallah also published on his Twitter account a list bearing his name and other names that have been blacked out, and attached the image of the list to a comment saying, “Thank you for sharing. This is how the 100 percent “random selection” of names was carried out between 2019 and 2021.
Salahuddin Maksoot, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said there is no transparency as to how or why people are added to or removed from the list, and there is no way people can seek to have their names removed from it.
Adding, “Two decades after 9/11, we still see the harm of watchlists. We still see how it causes hardship for American Muslims and Americans in general and violates their civil rights.”