A coalition of faith groups joined with a Muslim American solidarity group known as the Shoulder to Shoulder Campaign to accuse Senate Republicans in a letter Monday of being motived by “anti-Muslim animus” in their hesitancy to confirm Biden nominee Dilawar Syed as deputy administrator of the Small Business Administration.
Their letter also implied the Republicans were violating the Constitution by using a version of an “ethnic or religious test” to prevent Syed — who would be the highest ranking American Muslim official in the Biden administration — from holding office. “No one should be denied the ability to hold office because of what they look like or how they choose to worship,” they wrote.
The concerns of eight Republican senators on the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship — including Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), and Tim Scott (R-S.C.) — center around Syed’s involvement as a board member for Emgage Action, a Muslim American solidarity group that has drawn criticism for anti-Israel rhetoric and its support for the controversial Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel.
The Senate hearing to confirm Syed was April 1. But in a letter sent to the committee’s chair, Ben Cardin, on June 30, Republican senators explained that since that hearing, Emgage had released “incendiary” statements calling Israel an apartheid state and supporting House Democrat Ilhan Omar’s tweet equating Israel and the U.S. to Hamas and Taliban terrorist organizations.
They requested that the committee hold another hearing to ask Syed about the statements, and ensure that his confirmation “would not jeopardize small businesses with close ties to Israeli companies or small businesses owned by Jewish Americans,” emphasizing that confirming an individual who supports anti-Semitic accusations could harm Israel-American business relations.
Several advocacy groups and individuals released letters and statements claiming that Syed has no history of anti-Semitism and has worked for inclusive entrepreneurship and interfaith dialogue.
In the absence of a second hearing, Senate Republicans boycotted a vote to confirm Syed on July 15, leaving the committee without the minimum number of senators required to vote. Cardin released a statement the same day expressing his support for Syed’s confirmation and accusing the GOP senators of “playing politics.”
“The SBA continues to support millions of American small businesses navigating the economic effects of the pandemic, so it is disappointing that my Republican colleagues on the committee are playing politics with this critical nomination,” Cardin said.
“Dilawar Syed has spent decades building and scaling successful businesses, as well as advocating for under-served small businesses. The accusations that my Republican colleagues have levied against Mr. Syed are without merit.”
Sandra Parker, the Action Fund chairwoman of Christians United for Israel Action Fund, a pro-Israel advocacy group, had expressed her concern about the nomination shortly after Syed’s hearing.
“Dilawar Syed is the wrong choice for Deputy Administrator of the Small Business Administration (SBA),” she said. “His association with Emgage Action, which lobbies against anti-BDS legislation and has taken a range of other positions that are both outside the American mainstream and contrary to President Biden’s own policies, indicates poor judgment on Syed’s part.”
The vote to confirm Syed has not yet been rescheduled.