June 6, 2009
White House Video Features Muslim ProselytizersBy Peter Barry Chowka
Just after President Obama's Cairo speech ended, I clicked on the White House Web site. The home page, and especially its compelling large image, appeared to visually suggest the America that Obama has been describing recently -- a country that is not a Christian nation, nor a Jewish nation, not even a pluralistic nation, but "one of the largest Muslim countries in the world."
The large close-up photograph that dominated the home page was of a covered woman, Afeefa Syeed, Senior Advisor for Culture and Development with the Middle East and Asia Bureaus at USAID (United States Agency for International Development). Syeed is one of the three "Muslim Americans serving in the U.S. government" that was featured in a White House-produced video prominently linked from the White House home page, and later hosted at a URL at the White House video area at YouTube linked from a White House blog post by Jesse Lee. Click here to enlarge photo
The predictably slick and professionally produced video production was not quite as interesting to me as Syeed's background before she joined the government. Googling her name quickly turned up some interesting reading.
Before being appointed to her government post, Syeed was a "diversity consultant and multicultural trainer based in Northern Virginia" with "with a focus on Community and Grassroots Development."
An article featuring Syeed published on October 9, 2004 in the Kansas City Star, "Teaching Ramadan in public schools - Accurate lessons in demand after 9/11" by Holly Lebowitz Rossi, created a brief blip of controversy in the blogosphere, for example at Little Green Footballs and Northern Virginiastan.
The original article has since moved behind a pay-to-read archive wall, but all or most of it remains online, for example here at Free Republic.
Excerpts from the article:
On October 20, 2004, Alexis Amory wrote an article, "Muslim Re-Education," at frontpagemagazine.com that further explored the issue. Five days later, frontpagemagazine.com published "Debating Muslim Re-Education," consisting of Syeed's letter and Amory's rejoinder.
Back to this year: Eighteen seconds into the June 4, 2009 White House video, a poster presumably decorating Syeed's government office is shown. It's a takeoff on the patriotic and iconic World War II Rosie the Riveter painting by J. Howard Miller, changed to show the female as a covered Muslim with the classic WW II home front slogan, "We can do it."
The second person in the White House video is Rashad Hussain, appointed on January 28, 2009 as deputy associate counsel to President Barack Obama.
The third person in the video is Lema Bashir of the United States Department of Justice, previously Director of the Employment Diversity Awareness-Building Program at ADC (American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee).
In the video, Bashir says her father was born in "Northern Palestine." Since a country named "Northern Palestine" does not, and has not, exist(ed), it is presumed that she is in fact referring to northern Israel. The fact that she apparently cannot bring herself to say the word "Israel" is disturbing enough by itself
Another curious Bashir comment in the video: "The ideals that we hold as American Muslims are not that different from what they - from what Muslims around the world also hold."
In a blog entry about the video, Debbie Schlussel writes:
According to CBS News, the video is available with subtitles in many languages, including Persian, Arabic, and French.
Some of the comments made by President Obama in his Cairo speech seem relevant when considering the video.
Peter Barry Chowka is a writer and investigative journalist who writes about politics, health care, and the media.