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Country Music: It Belongs to Everyone

Kareem Salama (Kirk Murray)

Of all the dignitaries invited to the White House's Ramadan dinner Tuesday night, Kareem Salama may have had the most unusual résumé: He's the 31-year-old Muslim country singer from Ponca City, Okla.

"It was unbelievable," he told us of the dinner. "I was looking out at the lawn, thinking, 'Wow, no one gets to look from the inside out.' I didn't know the president was actually going to be there."

Salama, who has Brad Paisley cheekbones and a smoky cowboy drawl, hasn't yet broken into the big time. How'd he get on the White House's radar? He thinks it's because someone gave his debut CD to Bush adviser Karen Hughes a few years back. "I had been invited when George W. was president -- I was out of the country so I couldn't make it -- so I think I was a carry-over from another list."

The singer now lives in Texas, where he's getting ready for a bigger album release and studying for the bar exam. He doesn't mind being pegged as "the Muslim country-western singer," since "it all ends up attracting attention to the music."

On meeting President Obama: "I shook his hand, we talked for a minute. He said I could really sing." Had POTUS actually heard his music? Salama has no idea: "Maybe he's just really charismatic and knew there'd be no way I'd know if he was for real."

By The Reliable Source  |  September 3, 2009; 1:02 AM ET
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