The New Arab, February 25, 2021
A hijab-wearing US official spoke at a White House press briefing on Wednesday, prompting social media users to hail the moment as symbolic, after years of Islamophobia normalised by the previous administration.
Sameera Fazili, Deputy Director of the National Economic Council, addressed reporters on President Joe Biden‘s executive order to address electronic chip shortages and other critical supply chain issues.
Fazili, a graduate of Harvard University and Yale Law School, was appointed to the key position in the new administration last month. The National Economic Council deals with the economic policymaking process and provides policy advice to the president.
Social media users welcomed Fazili’s first appearance as an official in the Biden administration, with some interpreting the image of the hijab-wearing Muslim official as symbolising a shift away from Donald Trump’s legacy of bigotry towards Muslims.
“A month after Trump is gone and we have a sister in hijab giving the press briefing at the White House”, wrote Imraan Siddiqi, executive director of the Washington chapter of the Muslim Council of American Islamic Relations (CAIR). “The Islamaphobes are weeping,” he added.
Shahed Amanullah, a Muslim tech entrepreneur who served as a senior advisor to the US State Department between 2011 and 2014, expressed similar sentiments.
He described the appearance of Fazili, the daughter of Kashmiri immigrants, as showing “how far we have come in just a month – from incompetence and exclusion to intelligence and inclusion.”
Aymaan Ismail, a US Muslim journalist focusing on identity and religion, compared Fazili’s appearance to anti-Islam activist Brigette Gabriel, who was invited to the White House by Trump:
“Trump invited Islamophobes like Brigette Gabrial into the WH. Today, sister @sameerafazili delivered a press briefing. My how quickly things have changed”
Shortly after taking office in 2017 Trump instituted a “Muslim travel ban”, which Biden reversed in a flurry of executive orders last month.
The ban was one of several xenophobic campaign promises made by Trump, which included the creation of a Muslim registry and the surveillance of mosques.
He commented on alleged ‘threat’ posed by Muslims living in the West throughout his presidency, fuelling rage among white supremacists and the far-right.