WASHINGTON (RNS) Weeks after abruptly walking out of a White House meeting, a group of American Muslim organizations reconvened with White House officials Wednesday (July 25) to voice concerns that the Bush administration has ignored the interests of American Muslims.

"We conveyed the message that the president has to do a lot more to build confidence in the Muslim communities that we are not being shut out," said Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

Many Muslims feel "that candidate George Bush forgot us when he became President George Bush," according to Salam Al-Marayati, national director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council.

"The Clinton administration acknowledged us, included us in regular briefings, but with the Bush administration coming into the White House there's a feeling ... that before we had a spot at the table, and now we're back to trying to get through the front door," Al-Marayati said.

In their meeting with John DiIulio Jr., director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, the delegation stressed that if Bush wants Muslim support for his proposal to give federal money to religious groups, it needs to be inclusive of all religions.

"The faith-based initiative is supported by us cautiously because we do not want a one-faith initiative -- it should include all faiths,"Awad said. "It is a major concern of the Muslim community that we not be excluded."

Delegation members said their meeting touched on a wide range of issues, including the U.S. role in bringing peace to Israelis and Palestinians fighting in the Middle East and the group's objection to the government's use of "secret evidence" (evidence never disclosed to the defense team) in deportation proceedings to detain people suspected of terrorist activity.

"We left on a positive note, but there is still much to be done," said Mahdi Bray of the Muslim Public Affairs Council.

Earlier this month President Bush apologized to the American Muslim organizations for the June 28 incident in which some 25 group representatives walked out of a meeting with the Rev. Mark Scott --associate director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives -- after the Secret Service asked college student Abdullah Al-Arian to leave. Al-Arian is an intern in the office of Rep. David Bonior, D-Mich.

No reason was given for the request, Faisal Gill, of the American Muslim Council, told Religion News Service. But some suspect the incident was linked to the political activism of Al-Arian's father and uncle.
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