Me, a Leader?

Muslims Infiltrate the White House! Me Included!

I was one of the 14 ‘Muslim-American leaders’ invited to meet with President Obama on Wednesday afternoon. Here’s what it was like.

Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

I can’t believe it but Louie Gohmert and Michele Bachmann were right after all. Muslims have infiltrated the White House—and at the highest levels. Sharia law can’t be far behind, so I hope you like turkey bacon and non-alcoholic beer because that’s all you will be getting once these Muslims have their say.

What am I talking about? Well, on Wednesday, I was one of 14 Muslim-American leaders to attend a one-hour meeting with President Obama at the White House. I must admit I was thrilled at the prospect of actually having a conversation with the president about issues of concern to our community.

Once I was in The White House, two main thoughts came to mind. First, it looks just like House of Cards. I kept waiting for Frank Underwood to walk out and share his plans for world domination.

And secondly, after I sat down in the Roosevelt Room and observed the glasses and plates that bore the White House insignia, I immediately began plotting how to sneak one out with me. Seriously, you would’ve had the same thoughts if you saw it. They are really impressive/cool. (No plates or cups were ultimately stolen.)

In any event, why was this meeting happening? Farhana Khera, a lawyer and executive director of Muslim Advocates, who spearheaded the effort, explained, “We’ve been asking for a meeting with the president since he came to office.”

Now, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t Muslim-American leaders who have an ongoing working relationship with the administration. But there has never been a meeting with leaders from around the country with Obama before this. (And just so it’s clear, there are many other great Muslim-American leaders other than just the 14 at this meeting, but the White House wanted to keep this event small to encourage a discussion.)

So what happened at this meeting? Well, I’m happy to announce that I’m now the new ambassador to the United Kingdom. OK, not exactly. In fact, there are certain ground rules to these meetings, so I can’t disclose everything.

But I can tell you what I said. First, as a comedian—in addition to being a writer who irritates many conservatives on a daily basis—I sincerely commended the president for his comedy chops at past White House Correspondent Dinners. And then I asked the president if we could one day see a Muslim-American comedian perform at a future dinners. I then, of course, noted that I work cheap.

My next comment echoed the sentiment we heard often in the meeting. In fact, it was clearly the No. 1 issue raised: The alarming rise in anti-Muslim bigotry in America.

Attendees approached the issue from different ways. For example, Khera noted the need to “enact a tougher federal policy that would ban racial and religious profiling by law enforcement.” The reason being it gives others the sense that it’s acceptable to treat Muslim Americans less fairly simply because of their faith.

My comments were specific to the Republican elected officials who have made demonizing Muslims an increasingly visible part of their platform. People like Oklahoma State Rep. John Bennett, who said American Muslims are a “cancer” that must be cut out of America. Newly sworn-in Congressman Jody Hice (R-GA), who said that Islam is not a religion and thus, Muslims Americans are not entitled to freedom of religion.

And there’s Texas State Rep. Molly White, who last week posted on Facebook that Muslim Americans visiting her offices in the Texas State Capitol must first pledge allegiance to the United States and renounce terrorism or leave her office. And finally Gov. Bobby Jindal, who for last two weeks has been waging an anti-Muslim jihad by fabricating facts to support his outlandish claims about Muslims.

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My point was that while bigotry from certain Republicans is nothing new, I’m alarmed about the Democratic response to these comments. What is the Democrats’ response, you ask? Simple: silence.

We hear nothing from the leading Democratic elected officials in response to these dangerous remarks. I can assure you that if we heard racist, anti-Semitic, or homophobic remarks by Republican elected officials, Democrats would speak out. The same should apply when the hate is directed at our community. (Of course, it would be ideal if Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus denounced this anti-Muslim bigotry, but he won’t because this type of hateful crap is red meat for the GOP base.)

While I can’t share the president’s exact response, I can tell you that he expressed his strong commitment to our community to fight anti-Muslim bigotry. I fully understand it’s not easy problem to remedy. But it was very heartening to hear the president’s passionate response.

Hopefully, this meeting will not be the last time the president invites us to the White House for two reasons. One, it’s vitally important for our small community that amounts to about 1 percent of the country to build strong relationships with our elected leaders. Second, by the time I return, I will have figured out a way to successfully take a White House plate home with me—and maybe a cup and saucer as well.

UPDATE: After right-wing media outlets like Fox News, and others freaked out over the “dastardly” group of Muslims who met President Obama, the White House released the names of all attendees Friday morning. It should be noted that every Muslim American leader at the meeting had gladly agreed to release their names to the media. (What American doesn’t want people to know you met the President Of the United States?!) However, as was explained to me by a White House official, they typically don’t release the names of people attending community gatherings like this. So here you go:

Diego Arancibia, board member and associate director of the Ta’leef Collective; Azhar Azeez, president of the Islamic Society of North America; Maya Berry, executive director of the Arab American Institute; Hoda Elshishtawy, Muslim Public Affairs Council; Rahat Husain, Universal Muslim Association of America; Farhana Khera, president of Muslim Advocates; Dr. Sherman Jackson, professor of religion and American Studies and Ethnicity at the University of Southern California; Farhan Latif, chief operating officer, Institute of Policy and Understanding; Imam Mohamed Magid, representative of the Adams Center; Haroon Mokhtarzada, CEO of Webs; Kameelah Mu'Min Rashad, Muslim chaplain at the University of Pennsylvania; Dean Obeidallah, comedian; Bilqis “Qisi” Abdul-Qaadir, director of women’s basketball operations at Indiana State University; Arshia Wajid, founder of American Muslim Health Professionals.