Society

Muslim White House Staffer Quits Over Trump Travel Ban

| by Robert Fowler

Former National Security Council staffer Rumana Ahmed wrote a piece for The Atlantic sharing her short-lived experience working under the Trump administration. Describing her eight days in the new White House as disturbing, Ahmed resigned from her position after President Donald Trump's executive order on travel.

Ahmed's editorial for The Atlantic also recalled her years working under the Obama administration and her concern about the new Trump administration's policies and attitudes towards Muslims.

Ahmed resigned from her position on the NSC following Trump's executive order on refugees and travel: "I knew I could no longer stay and work for an administration that saw me and people like me not as fellow citizens, but as a threat."

On Jan. 27, Trump signed an executive action temporarily halting U.S. admittance of refugees and putting an indefinite ban on Syrian refugees. The order  also placed a travel freeze on citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries. Following several court challenges to the original order, Trump is set to sign a new executive action that maintains the travel freeze while sidestepping several legal liabilities, USA Today reports.

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The daughter of immigrants from Bangladesh, Ahmed was hired as a White House staffer in 2011 after graduating from George Washington University. She joined the NSC in 2014 as an adviser on Muslim American outreach. Noting that she was the only hijab-wearing Muslim woman in the White House, Ahmed recalled that the Obama administration "always made me feel welcome and included."

Ahmed wrote that the political climate of 2016 felt similar to the suspicion towards Muslim-American communities following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, when she was bullied as a student for wearing the hijab. She asserted that bigotry towards American Muslims was more intense now because "this fear and hatred were being fueled by Americans in positions of power."

The former NSC staffer said that she decided to stay on under the new Trump administration to provide a diverse voice in the new White House. Ahmed asserted when she returned to work on the first day of the new administration, "the new staff looked at me with a cold surprise."

Ahmed described her eight days in the Trump administration as "strange, appalling and disturbing... This was not typical Republican leadership, or even that of a businessman. It was a chaotic attempt at authoritarianism."

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She resigned on Jan. 30 in protest of Trump's executive order. Ahmed recalled that the night before her departure, she explained to Trump's senior NSC communications adviser Michael Anton that the new administration "was attacking the basic tenets of democracy."

Ahmed wrote that this conversation occurred before reporting emerged that Anton had written provocative opinions on Islam and American diversity under an online pseudonym throughout 2016. She recalled that he had been unresponsive to her warnings.

Through the presidential race, Anton had written several anonymous posts on a men's fashion website, The Intercept reports.

The NSC staffer had written that the Muslim world was "a whole movement of people who want to kill me, destroy my country, and end my civilization."

Anton's comments also assailed American diversity, asserting that homogenous societies "have higher trust levels, greater levels of cross family cooperation, more public spiritedness, higher levels of volunteering, charity donations, etc."

The NSC staffer has asserted that his online posts were written "in a kind of light-hearted way."

Ahmed used her editorial to disagree with Anton's assessment: "American diversity is a strength, and so is the American commitment to ideals of justice and equality."

She warned that the Trump administration's policy approach to national security and the president's rhetoric towards Muslims could "legitimize ISIS propaganda, and allow the dangerous rise of white-supremacist extremism go unchecked." 

Sources: The Atlantic, The Intercept, USA Today / Photo Credit: Leah Varjacques/The Atlantic

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