GOP Senators Halt Nomination of Biden Appointee Over Anti-Muslim Bigotry

In a letter addressed to Senator Ben Cardin — Chair of the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Committee — dated June 30, 2021, eight Republican US senators expressed their concern over the nomination of Dilawar Syed. The signatories of the letter were Senators James Risch (Idaho), Marco Rubio (Florida), Josh Hawley (Missouri), Tim Scott (South Carolina), John Kennedy (Louisiana), Jim Inhofe (Oklahoma), Roger Marshal (Kansas), and Joni Ernst (Iowa).

Dilawar Syed is the current nominee to be the Deputy Administrator of the Small Business Administration (SBA). If nominated, Syed will become the highest-ranking Muslim official that will hold a role in the executive branch of the United States government.

According to the Republican senators, if someone with Syed’s background, is confirmed it would “hinder the close cooperation businesses in America and Israel have.” The senators also highlighted the importance of maintaining Israel’s support for businesses primarily in cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, medicine, and bio-medicine.

The Republican senators could be forgiven, seeing that they intend to better guarantee that Biden’s appointee will ensure the non-disruption of the already strained political relationship between Israel and the divided politicians and political groups in the US. However, this seems not to be the case. 

Those senators singled out and specifically targeted Syed’s board membership to Emgage Action, a Muslim-American advocacy group. On their website, Emgage Action stated that its mission is “to promote just policy guided by our faith and reflective of our Muslim American identity.” Emgage Action has also been supporting the call for President Biden to pressure Israel into agreeing with the ceasefire with Palestine and has been critical of Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands. These statements from Emgage Action, according to the Republican senators, are inflammatory and point to deep-seated prejudice that can translate to a severe issue to the small business community if Syed is appointed.

As a response, various religious organizations that expressed their support for Syed, sent their letter to Ben Cardin. In their letter, dated August 9, 2021, and addressed to both senators Ben Cardin and Rand Paul, the religious groups accused some republican senators of using a “troubling strategy.” The strategy mentioned in the letter refers to discussions by some Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee members where Syed’s Pakistani heritage and association with Muslim-American advocacy group is heavily discussed. The letter states the religious groups’ concerns over the “apparent anti-Muslim animus” causing unnecessary delay over Syed’s appointment confirmation.

The letter was sent by the Shoulder to Shoulder Campaign (STSC). On their website, the STSC describes their organization as a “national coalition-based campaign of religious denominations and faith-based organizations and communities.” In the letter, the religious organizations, represented by the STSC , stated that “We do not normally comment on presidential appointments, nor the Senate confirmation process, we feel morally compelled to speak out.”

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