Recently the Obama Administration tapped Arif Alikhan for a high-level job in the Department of Homeland Security. This generated considerable handwringing among some bloggers. The tumult is centered around not just the fact that Arif is apparently a devout Muslim of Indian and Pakistani roots, but that his appointment was praised by CAIR (the Council for American-Islamic Relations) and that he recently attended a fundraiser for MPAC (the Muslim Public Affairs Council).
Arif and I were at the U.S. Attorney's Office at the same time. He's a friendly acquaintance, not a close friend. However, let me say this: I have no qualms whatsoever about his appointment. Arif was — and is — liked and respected by prosecutors and by the federal law enforcement community. That's not a notably liberal group. He was known as an intelligent, capable and diligent trial lawyer, investigator, and supervisor, who pushed innovations in prosecuting computer crime. Once I left the U.S. Attorney's office and joined the defense bar, I learned that he was regarded as tough but fair by the other side — something that prosecutors should aspire to. I never heard a bad word spoken about his honesty, loyalty, or ability. I have no doubts about his ability to do any job handed to him at DHS, and no doubts that he will work skillfully and sensibly for the security of the nation.
I had no idea that Arif is a devout Muslim. It simply wasn't an issue when we served together as prosecutors. And I don't care. To be perfectly blunt, I don't believe that all of the complaints about him linked above are about MPAC and CAIR, rather than about him being a Muslim. We have not, despite the best efforts and arguments of some, reached a point in this nation where religion disqualifies anyone for public service, and I hope that we never do. I don't agree with many of CAIR's positions, but an endorsement by a group does not equate to endorsement of a group.
My sincere congratulations go out to Arif.
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