Reflections on a Muslim Official in American Public Life

April 29, 2021

In an article published recently at MuslimMatters entitled, “Hijab In The White House” Ismail Royer, Director of RFI’s Islam and Religious Freedom Action Team, comments on Sameera Fazili, Deputy Director of the U.S. National Economic Council, who “caught the eye of many because she wore a hijab” during a White House press briefing in February.

Royer outlines Ms. Fazili’s varied (and impressive) educational and professional background and her commitment to religious freedom and the importance of religion in public life. Royer also observes that she appears to undertake her public advocacy and public service distinctly as a Muslim. He writes:

Ms. Fazili’s distinguished career demonstrates that she has thoughtfully and seriously, but without ostentation, taken Islam as a substantive foundation and guide in her public life. In that respect, she sits in tension between various competing trends in American culture bearing on religion.

Royer then turns to elaborating these competing trends and how they have played out on the Left and Right in American politics. He concludes by pointing to Ms. Fazili as a model for living one’s faith in public life while avoiding the secularizing forces at both extremes of the political spectrum:

Both the Trump and Biden administrations represent, at least in part, and in different but parallel ways, increasingly influential ideological currents that would see Islam driven from the public square. In rising above the secularizing identity politics of the far left, and facing with courage the secularizing identity politics of the far right, Ms. Fazili serves as an example for Muslims who seek to hold onto their faith and contribute to the common good while navigating an increasingly polarized America.

Read the full article: Hijab In The White House.