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!
  • Yeshiva University's lawyer wanted to know why the dozens of former schoolboys now suing over a sexual abuse cover-up didn't sue decades ago. Read the judge's striking response here.
  • It’s over. The tyranny of the straight-haired, button nosed, tan-skinned girl has ended. Jewesses rejoice!
  • It's really, really, really hard to get kicked out of Hebrew school these days.
  • "If Netanyahu re-opens the settlement floodgates, he will recklessly bolster the argument of Hamas that the only language Israel understands is violence."
  • Would an ultra-Orthodox leader do a better job of running the Met Council?
  • So, who won the war — Israel or Hamas?
  • 300 Holocaust survivors spoke out against Israel. Did they play right into Hitler's hands?
  • Ari Folman's new movie 'The Congress' is a brilliant spectacle, an exhilarating visual extravaganza and a slapdash thought experiment. It's also unlike anything Forward critic Ezra Glinter has ever seen. http://jd.fo/d4unE
  • The eggplant is beloved in Israel. So why do Americans keep giving it a bad rap? With this new recipe, Vered Guttman sets out to defend the honor of her favorite vegetable.
  • “KlezKamp has always been a crazy quilt of gay and straight, religious and nonreligious, Jewish and gentile.” Why is the klezmer festival shutting down now?
  • “You can plagiarize the Bible, can’t you?” Jill Sobule says when asked how she went about writing the lyrics for a new 'Yentl' adaptation. “A couple of the songs I completely stole." Share this with the theater-lovers in your life!
  • Will Americans who served in the Israeli army during the Gaza operation face war crimes charges when they get back home?
  • Talk about a fashion faux pas. What was Zara thinking with the concentration camp look?
  • “The Black community was resistant to the Jewish community coming into the neighborhood — at first.” Watch this video about how a group of gardeners is rebuilding trust between African-Americans and Jews in Detroit.
  • "I am a Jewish woman married to a non-Jewish man who was raised Catholic, but now considers himself a “common-law Jew.” We are raising our two young children as Jews. My husband's parents are still semi-practicing Catholics. When we go over to either of their homes, they bow their heads, often hold hands, and say grace before meals. This is an especially awkward time for me, as I'm uncomfortable participating in a non-Jewish religious ritual, but don't want his family to think I'm ungrateful. It's becoming especially vexing to me now that my oldest son is 7. What's the best way to handle this situation?" http://jd.fo/b4ucX What would you do?
  • 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.