The blowback of the Bush administrationâ€™s fierce pressure against Muslims has been the movement of once stalwart Republican Muslims over firmly to the Democratic camp. Thus, 28 powerful Muslim businessmen and politicians flocked to a Democratic fundraiser in Washington, meeting with White House and Democratic Congressional leaders on April 14th and 15th–a project sponsored by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC).
The event was organized by Keith Ellison and Andre Carson, the two Muslim congressmen.
It comprised on the first day (April 14) a visit to the White House, and on the second day (April 15) a breakfast and meeting with House Democratic Congressional leaders.
This meeting was actually the second annual DCCC â€œLeadership Summit.â€ The delegation of 28 Muslims went to the White House and met with White House senior advisor Valerie Bowman Jarrett (Assistant to the President for Intergovernmental Relations and Public Relations), who interestingly was born to American parents in Iran and speaks Persian.
The delegation had a very friendly and fraternal meeting with congressmen including Keith Ellison and Andre Carson, and the following Democratic congressional leaders, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Majority Whip James Clyburn, DCCC Chaimran Chris Van Hollen, Chairman of the House Finance Committee Barney Fank, Chairman of Ways and Means Committee Sandy Levin, Chairman of the Homeland Securiity Committee Bennie Thompson, as well as seven other members of congress, and the DCCC executive director Jon Vogel. The friendly nature of the meeting is evidenced by the testimony of attendees and also by the warmth of the discussions from pictures from the event.
Saeed Patel, a prominent New Jersey businessman, President of Amex Computers, said of the two days of meetings that â€œthe main theme was making introductions, raising concerns, and the second thing was promotion of business.â€
â€œEllison now has been looking into arranging trade delegations to other countries, including India,â€ explained Mr. Patel–â€heâ€™s focusing on Muslim countries but there are also 150 million Muslims in India.â€
Patel attended a recent such trade commission to Turkey. â€œWe went to Turkey last year–one week, different places, to promote trade. We were hosted by the US ambassador in Ankara. We met quite a few people… made a lot of contacts.â€
â€œI am hopeful,â€ he said. There can be â€œa lot of business between here and Turkey.â€
The delegates, as described by Mr. Patel, included â€œa lot of people, some social activists, some doctors.â€
â€œI felt that [Democratic leaders] were very gracious–they went out of their way to make sure we were comfortable. Pelosi, Jarrett, all were very nice. Very sympathetic.â€
The honorable Mohammed Hameeduddin, a city councilman of Teaneck NJ, explained that his agenda was â€œracial profiling.â€
As an example, Hameeduddin cited the recent visit by Saeed Patel to Turkey–saying Patel on his return trip was â€œtreated harshly by the TSA.â€
â€œI expressed my views to Pelosi, Frank, and Benny Thompson,â€ said Hameeduddin.
Patel explained that the meeting was â€œvery promising, Ellison and Carson both mentioned that, and Jarrett–this is not just hello and goodbye, this is hello and more hello, more interaction.â€ The democrats communicated that â€œYou are more than welcome, give us your personal opinions and experiences to take into account.â€
â€œIt was a good exchange,â€ said Patel. â€œNobody was holding back, everyone was speaking his mind.â€
Some of the delegates expressed some consternation, he said, that Obama and the Democrats have been in office more than a year and yet there is still harassment in travel.
Benny Thompson, chair of the Homeland Security Committee, explained in seriousness that if a person is mistreated by airport security personnel he should â€œalways get the name of the person disrespectful to you.â€ But he also quipped, â€œNot too long ago your community was Republican, was it not?â€
Patel explained that a follow-up meeting is in the works with Attorney General Eric Holder, on the subject of civil rights abuses against Muslims.