The Truth? Few Muslims in Government

Huma Abedin Smear Spotlights Paucity of Officials

Huma’s World: Conservative Rep. Michele Bachmann raised hackles by claiming State Department aide Huma Abedin has links to the Muslim Brotherhood.
Getty images
Huma’s World: Conservative Rep. Michele Bachmann raised hackles by claiming State Department aide Huma Abedin has links to the Muslim Brotherhood.

By Nathan Guttman

Published August 03, 2012, issue of August 10, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 3 of 3)

After the most recent episode, the Congress members who signed the letters to the inspectors general — particularly Bachmann, a former presidential candidate — were widely condemned by faith groups and politicians, including some leading Republicans. Arizona Senator John McCain called the accusations directed at Muslim American administration officials “sinister” and said they “need to stop now.” But other Republicans, including House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, refused to criticize Bachmann and her colleagues.

Activists in the Muslim-American community said that the letters and the public questioning of Muslim federal employees’ loyalty could further discourage young members of the community who are considering a government career. “If this kind of McCarthyism continues, there is a real fear that people who are very smart and can make a lot of money elsewhere will stay outside of public service,” Tarin said.

Still, Muslim community leaders broadly agreed that anti-Muslim sentiments are not the sole factor driving Muslims away from senior government positions. Another obstacle facing Muslim Americans, as well as Arab Americans who are Christians, is climbing the ranks in government offices dealing with Middle East policy.

“The one area that remains problematic for Arab Americans is anything that has to do with Middle East policy,” said James Zogby, founder and president of the Arab American Institute. “It is easier for a Dennis Ross to get a job than it is for an Arab American,” he added, referring to President Obama’s former top aide on Middle East issues, who is Jewish and has served as chairman of a Jerusalem-based think tank sponsored by the Jewish Agency. Zogby’s son, Joseph Zogby, was among the few Arab Americans who served in the State Department’s Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs. During his time there, the young Zogby constantly came under attack from some pro-Israel activists.

But the main reason so few Muslims are represented in top government positions stems from internal forces. Muslim Americans are mostly newcomers to America. Up until the 1970s, most Muslims leaving their countries went to the Persian Gulf states, which were rich in employment opportunities. Immigration to America picked up only later on, and has increased significantly in the past decade.

“Muslim Americans are still in the infancy stages when it comes to civic and political engagement,” Tarin said. First-generation Muslim immigrants, Arabs and non-Arabs, encouraged their children to study medicine, law and engineering, he explained. Public service is only now beginning to be considered as a suitable option for young Muslims.

The most visible sign of this shift can be seen in recent years on Capitol Hill, which is emerging as a valuable first stop for young Muslim Americans wishing to enter public service. In the mid 1990s, Muslim congressional staffers were hardly heard of and a weekly Friday prayer service, organized in a Capitol Hill meeting room, drew only a few Muslims from the Hill and from adjacent government offices. Now, participants say, some 150 Muslim staff members and other government employees show up each Friday, proving that change may well be on its way.

Contact Nathan Guttman at guttman@forward.com


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:http://jd.fo/g3IyM
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • If it's true, it's pretty terrifying news.
  • “My mom went to cook at the White House and all I got was this tiny piece of leftover raspberry ganache."
  • Planning on catching "Fading Gigolo" this weekend? Read our review.
  • A new initiative will spend $300 million a year towards strengthening Israel's relationship with the Diaspora. http://jd.fo/q3Iaj Is this money spent wisely?
  • Lusia Horowitz left pre-state Israel to fight fascism in Spain — and wound up being captured by the Nazis and sent to die at Auschwitz. Share her remarkable story — told in her letters.
  • Vered Guttman doesn't usually get nervous about cooking for 20 people, even for Passover. But last night was a bit different. She was cooking for the Obamas at the White House Seder.
  • A grumpy Jewish grandfather is wary of his granddaughter's celebrating Easter with the in-laws. But the Seesaw says it might just make her appreciate Judaism more. What do you think?
  • “Twist and Shout.” “Under the Boardwalk.” “Brown-Eyed Girl.” What do these great songs have in common? A forgotten Jewish songwriter. We tracked him down.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.