The Truman View

The voice of Truman members, writing in their personal capacity.

December 20, 2021
GOP Refusal to Confirm Dilawar Syed For His Faith Is An Attack on American Democracy

GOP Refusal to Confirm Dilawar Syed For His Faith Is An Attack on American Democracy

Written by
Qasim Rashid

In 1863, in the ensuing chaos after the Battle of Gettysburg, Private Mohammed Kahn was separated from his regiment. Union military police arrested him and brought him before the Provost Marshall. Kahn, a Muslim who immigrated to the United States only months before the Civil War ignited, had enlisted in the Union Army to defend his new homeland from the scourge of bigotry, racism, and extremism. But the 43rd New York Infantry Regiment in which Kahn enlisted  was an all white unit. Rejecting Kahn’s sincere and desperate pleas to reunite and fight alongside his regiment, the Provost Marshall sent Kahn to a Philadelphia labor camp. Despite Kahn’s willingness to give the ultimate sacrifice for his nation, his nation imprisoned him on account of his skin color and his faith.

But what if this painful story of discrimination isn’t just a story of yesteryear, but one of contemporary reality? Fast forward to 2021 to President Biden’s nominee to Deputy Admin of the Small Business Administration—Dilawar Syed. Like Kahn, Syed is a Muslim immigrant to the United States with similar dreams of building a better life by serving his new nation. In his decades since arriving, Syed has done just that, earning his undergrad from UT Austin, his MBA from Wharton, and revolutionizing healthcare tech and entrepreneurialism. Syed oversaw the creation of companies and countless jobs, elevating marginalized communities, and working in a bipartisan manner to fulfill his purpose—serve his nation to the best of his ability.

Yet, ignoring Syed’s service, his record of job creation, and his unmatched qualifications praised by the US Chamber of Commerce with their full support for his confirmation—the GOP continues to block Syed on account of his Muslim faith. On at least five separate occasions, all 10 GOP Senators have refused to appear at the committee vote for Syed, thereby denying quorum, and undermining any potential for a vote. On multiple attempts for Senate unanimous consent, Senator Rand Paul has objected. And each GOP objection to Syed’s confirmation is more bizarre than the last. First, the GOP wrote a letter objecting that Syed advised Emgage, a Muslim civic organization that works on the sinister task of…voter turnout—a spurious objection at best. Next, then the GOP accused Syed of anti-Israel—a charge resoundingly rejected by more than 50 progressive and conservative Jewish, interfaith, and civil rights organizations. Then the charge bizarrely shifted to the SBA disbursing loans to Planned Parenthood—an excuse that has never before been cited against any SBA nominee in history and a factor completely out of Dilawar Syed’s control.

Despite the overt objections to him simply advising a Muslim civic org, GOP Small Business Committee Ranking Member Senator Rand Paul insists his objections have nothing to do with Dilawar’s faith. Instead, Senator Paul doubles down on his objections to the SBA’s loan disbursements to Planned Parenthood. Well, even under that theory, those Planned Parenthood loans have now been disbursed, as per policy that the GOP accepted without objection under former President Trump’s tenure. Thus, the GOP continues in their obstruction.

Most astonishingly, at no point has the GOP claimed that Syed lacks the qualifications, experience, or comprehensive support from conservative and liberal organizations alike who recognize the special leader he is. The GOP’s anti-Muslim bigotry succeeds only in hurting our nation, and the millions of small businesses who desperately need a fully functioning SBA to serve their needs and help them claw out of this devastating pandemic. This fact became even more apparent after the devastating Kentucky tornados ravaged the state, decimating countless small businesses. Sadly, Rand Paul yet again blocked Dilawar Syed’s confirmation, further preventing small businesses from getting the support they need.

So whatever became of Private Mohammed Kahn? After 10 long months in the Philadelphia labor camp,  he escaped. Private Kahn arrived by train to Washington D.C., and then traveled nearly seventy miles by foot to Spotsylvania, Virginia, where he was finally reunited with his New York 43rd regiment. Overjoyed, Kahn continued his fight for the Union, and despite suffering a gunshot wound, served throughout the war’s end. Kahn, the Muslim immigrant who was imprisoned despite his ardent desire to serve his nation, died a Civil War hero.  Today, Dilawar Syed’s confirmation wouldn’t only make him American history’s highest ranking Muslim in a Presidential administration, it would also send a message to a generation of young American Muslims that this country has a place for them, just like it did for Private Mohammed Kahn over 150 years ago. Indeed, the moral of Private Mohammed Kahn’s story is not one of bigotry, but of justice overcoming vehement bigotry, and advancing America into the promise of a more perfect union. This is the America we need today and confirming Dilawar Syed as Deputy Admin of the SBA will advance that promise.

Qasim Rashid
Truman Security Fellow

Qasim Rashid is a human rights lawyer, author, Truman fellow, and host of The Qasim Rashid Show on Sirius XM. A 2020 Democratic nominee for US Congress, Qasim has published in TIME, Washington Post, The New York Times, Politico, NPR, and USA Today. His social media handle across platforms is @QasimRashid.