Is there a tougher job description than Shaarik Zafar’s?
As the State Department’s new special representative to Muslim communities, the boyish-looking Texas lawyer is America’s ambassador to Muslims around the world during a summer of nonstop grim headlines from Gaza, Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq. All are places where his brand is not, let’s say, wildly popular.
Having just spent a decade working for domestic federal agencies, primarily with fellow Muslims, on topics that include civil rights violations, police surveillance and Transportation Security Administration screening, Zafar knows the deal.
His work will be done, often, through others.
“It has to be a bank shot,” says Zafar, whose appointment will be formally announced Wednesday. “A Muslim guy with the U.S. government is going to have limited credibility.”
The sensitivity of the topic — how Muslims interact with the U.S. government — flared just this month. Prominent Swiss celeb-professor Tariq Ramadan announced that he would skip the biggest annual gathering of U.S. Muslims — the conference of the Islamic Society of North America in Detroit this weekend — to protest what he sees as a Muslim-American leadership silent or deferential to U.S. power brokers on domestic and foreign issues.
“In bending over backwards, in saying ‘Yes sir!’ they sacrifice not only their dignity, but forget and betray their duty,” Ramadan wrote this month, prompting prominent responses. A similar discussion erupted in July when a large Arab American group called on Muslim leaders to boycott government-sponsored iftars — the fast-breaking dinners held during Ramadan — to protest U.S. policy toward the Israel-Gaza war (few did)…