By Charles Sercombe
Although they didn’t get to meet one-on-one with President Biden, the mayor and city council did enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime experience to visit the White House as special guests.
Mayor Amer Ghalib told The Review that about 200 people attended the visit, which was a celebration of Eid.
Like the mayor and city council, most of those in attendance were of the Islamic faith, he said.
“It was a good experience, we walked around and inside the White House, attended the president’s speech, and ate after that,” Ghalib said.
“He (Biden) just spoke and walked out; on his way out of the room he shook hands with people standing in the front, and walked out. He had no bilateral meetings with anyone due to too many people in the room.”
As for those attending, it was a rare opportunity for city officials to meet other officials from different states and “network,” Ghalib added.
Councilmember Muhith Mahmood said, on a Facebook posting, that “It was a great experience with different leaders from all over the country.”
At this Tuesday’s city council meeting, Abu Musa said
We had an excellent trip. We met a lot of people.”
One person he met and snapped a photo with was none other than Vice President Kamala Harris.
Other councilmembers posed with U.S. Representatives Ilhan Omar (D-Minnesota) and Detroit’s own Rashida Tlaib (D).
Councilmember Nayeem Choudhury called the visit “historical,” and he noted that without being elected “I wouldn’t have had a chance to go there.”
Ghalib also noted, on his Facebook page, that, before the president spoke, the event began with the recitation of some verses from the Quran.
“There are those in our city who object to us allowing people, as a government, to participate in their various religious celebrations. Like (President) Obama said, we are not Americans or Muslims, we are American Muslims.”
He further said that he hopes “this is a message to those who oppose honoring and celebrating religious holidays in our city.”
In 2016, Obama also hosted a group of Muslim-Americans to the White House, where he said, in part:
“For more than two centuries, Muslim Americans of all backgrounds — Arab and Asian, African and Latino, black and white — have helped build America as farmers and merchants, factory workers, architects, teachers and community leaders. …
“So let’s be clear: Muslim Americans are as patriotic, as integrated, as American, as any other members of the American family. And whether your family has been here for generations or you’re a new arrival, you’re an essential part of the fabric of our country.”
Biden also spoke about the ongoing role of Muslims in the history of the United States.
“There are more … Muslim Americans serving in Congress today than ever in American history. And it’s great for democracy. It’s great for democracy when Congress looks like America.
“I want everyone — all of the elected officials here who serve in city, county, state governments across the nation, I want to compliment you. Some of you are the first Muslims ever to hold the seats you have. Thank you. And I’m so proud to see this during my time as President of the United States.”
City Manager Max Garbarino said the city paid the expenses of the mayor and city councilmembers. He said he hopes to get reimbursed by the Biden administration.
The cost of the trip was not immediately known.
Posted May 12, 2023