Facebook Twitter Tumblr Close Skip to main content
A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Muslims Appointed to Homeland Security

Q: Has the Obama administration appointed two Muslims to serve in the Department of Homeland Security?

A: Yes, in 2009. One was a senior Justice Department aide during the Bush administration. Another is a former head of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee and was appointed as a civil-rights adviser.


This is the latest e-mail being circulated. Is this true?

Well, boys and girls, today we are letting the fox guard the henhouse. Tomorrow, the wolves will be herding the sheep!

Obama appointed two devout Muslims to homeland security posts.

Obama and Janet Napolitano appointed Arif Alikhan, a devout Muslim, as Assistant Secretary for Policy Development. DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano swore-in Kareem Shora, a devout Muslim, who was born in Damascus, Syria, as ADC National Executive Director as a member of the Homeland Security Advisory Council (HSAC).

NOTE: Has anyone ever heard a new government official being identified as a devout Catholic, a devout Jew or a devout Protestant…?
Just wondering.

Devout Muslims being appointed to critical Homeland Security positions? Doesn’t this make you feel safer already?? That should make our home land much safer, huh!?

Was it not "Devout Muslim men" that flew planes into U.S. buildings 8 1/2 years ago? Was it not a Devout Muslim who killed 13 at Fort Hood ?
Please forward this important information to any who cares about the future of our Country.
Don’t you feel safer now??


This smear just won’t go away. Over the last year-and-a-half we’ve received more than 100 queries asking us whether it was true that two "devout Muslims" were appointed to serve at the Department of Homeland Security. The short answer is yes, though we can’t say how "devout" either man might be. The message makes a false claim, however, when it says the appointments amount to "letting the fox guard the henhouse," as though all Muslims were terrorists or sympathizers. That is not true.

One of the two appointees has a long record of working in law enforcement under both Republicans and Democrats. According to an April 24, 2009, press release from the Department of Homeland Security, Arif Alikhan was appointed assistant secretary for policy development by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. Alikhan came from Los Angeles, where he served as deputy mayor for homeland security and public safety. Before working for Democratic Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa, Alikhan was a top prosecutor at the U.S. Department of Justice from 1997 to 2006. During the administration of President George W. Bush, he served as senior counsel and executive director of the Intellectual Property Task Force. Alikhan was described by the Los Angeles Times as "a Muslim born to Pakistani and Indian parents," and he has supported Muslim American causes.

The second appointee is Kareem Shora, who describes himself as a "Muslim American." His appointment to a non-policy-making advisory position was announced June 5, 2009. He first became a member of the Homeland Security Advisory Council along with 15 others — including Gary Hart, a former U.S. senator who was a member of the 9/11 commission, and Bill Webster, who was director of the CIA and FBI. The council makes recommendations directly to Napolitano on various homeland security issues, but members have no policy-making authority. A department official told us that Shora, who was born in Damascus, Syria, resigned from the advisory board in the fall of 2009 to become a senior adviser in the department’s Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties. Upon taking the job at the civil-rights office, Shora also resigned as national executive director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee.

The e-mail questions President Obama and Napolitano for appointing two "devout" Muslims, saying that nobody has ever "heard a new government official being identified as a devout Catholic, a devout Jew or a devout Protestant." In fact, we found only one article, from a German publication, that referred to Alikhan as "devout," and none that applies that adjective to Shora. Most news reports of the appointments don’t mention religion at all.

Furthermore, the e-mail uses the word "devout" a total of nine times, as though the word means something sinister. It does not. The Oxford English Dictionary defines "devout" as: "Devoted to divine worship or service; solemn and reverential in religious exercises; pious, religious." And the Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines it in similar fashion: "devoted to religion or to religious duties or exercises."

Yet this message questions the appointments by saying, "Was it not ‘Devout Muslim men that flew planes into U.S. buildings 8 1/2 years ago?" That’s a classic example of guilt by association, using faulty logic to make a connection that may or may not exist. A similarly false argument might go this way:

George is a Desert Storm veteran.

Timothy McVeigh was a Desert Storm veteran.

Therefore, George is likely to be a terrorist, too.

The writer of the e-mail invites us to believe that Shora and Alikhan may commit acts of violence because other Muslims have done so. The author may suppose such a thing, based on his or her own biases against Muslims. But we find zero evidence to support such a claim against these two men.

— Joshua Goldman


"Statement by Secretary Napolitano on President Obama’s Intent to Nominate David Heyman as Assistant Secretary for Policy and her Appointment of Arif Alikhan as Assistant Secretary for Policy Development." Press release. Department of Homeland Security. 24 Apr 2009.

"Assistant Secretary for Policy Development: Arif Alikhan." Press release. Department of Homeland Security. 18 Aug 2009.

Helfand, Duke. "Mayor Names Deputy Safety Deputy." Los Angeles Times. 23 Sep 2006.

Nagah, Hadeer. "LA Deputy Mayor Arif Alikhan." Albany Times Union. 10 Apr 2009.

"Secretary Napolitano Swears in Homeland Security Advisory Council Members." Press release. Department of Homeland Security. 5 Jun 2009.

Hanania, Ray. "ADC Celebrating its 25th year: The team behind the message at ADC." The Arab Street. 3 Feb 2005.

"After 10 years of Service, ADC Congratulates Kareen Shora for Appointment as DHS Senior Policy Adviser." Press release. American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee. 15 Oct 2009.

Hujer, Marc and Daniel Steinvorth. "American Muslims Strive to Become Model Citizens." Der Spiegel. 13 Sep 2007.