Muslims barred from picture at Obama event

Crossposted at Green Mountain Daily.

I’ve got a lot of grace for Barack Obama. He impresses me one moment and pisses me off the next (his AIPAC speech is a prime example). Then there are his staffers who treated me poorly including Suzanne Goldberg of The Guardian U.K. This time however was low. Really low.

It’s from Politico so hopefully they have their facts straight. They’re known for getting their stories wrong.

Ben Smith writes:

“Two Muslim women at Barack Obama’s rally in Detroit on Monday were barred from sitting behind the podium by campaign volunteers seeking to prevent the women’s headscarves from appearing in photographs or on television with the candidate.

The campaign has apologized to the women, both Obama supporters who said they felt betrayed by their treatment at the rally.

“This is of course not the policy of the campaign. It is offensive and counter to Obama’s commitment to bring Americans together and simply not the kind of campaign we run,” said Obama spokesman Bill Burton. “We sincerely apologize for the behavior of these volunteers.”

Heeba Asef, a 25 year-old lawyer who came to see Obama.

“I was coming to support him, and I felt like I was discriminated against by the very person who was supposed to be bringing this change, who I could really relate to,” said Hebba Aref, a 25-year-old lawyer who lives in the Detroit suburb of Bloomfield Hills. “The message that I thought was delivered to us was that they do not want him associated with Muslims or Muslim supporters.”

The story continues below the fold.

“In Detroit on Monday, the two different Obama volunteers – in separate incidents – made it clear that headscarves wouldn’t be in the picture. The volunteers gave different explanations for excluding the hijabs, one bluntly political and the other less clear.

In Aref’s case, there was no ambiguity.

That incident began when the volunteer asked Aref’s friend Ali Koussan and two others, Aref’s brother Sharif and another young lawyer, Brandon Edward Miller, whether they would like to sit behind the stage. The three young men said they would but mentioned they were with friends.

The men said the volunteer, a 20-something African-American woman in a green shirt, asked if their friends looked and were dressed like the young men, who were all light-skinned and wearing suits.

Miller said yes but mentioned that one of their friends was wearing a headscarf with her suit.

The volunteer “explained to me that because of the political climate and what’s going on in the world and what’s going on with Muslim Americans, it’s not good for [Aref] to be seen on TV or associated with Obama,” said Koussan, a law student at Wayne State University.

Both Koussan and Miller said they specifically recalled the volunteer citing the “political climate” in telling them they couldn’t sit behind Obama.

“I was like, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me. Are you serious?'” Koussan recalled.”

Here’s my favorite part:

“… Aref said she was glad Obama had apologized, but she was not entirely satisfied.

“I think this is a much bigger deal than maybe they’re perceiving it as,” she said, noting that Obama had placed a personal call to a television reporter he’d dismissively called “Sweetie.”

“An apology from him personally would be better,” she said, then reconsidered. “If they are true to their word, I think it would suffice to have an invitation to their next rally and have seats behind him and show up on TV.”

Good for her!

To read more click here.

Personally, I’m not OK with this. My friend who sent me the story asked me this question: If it’s not their policy then why did they do it? That’s what I want to know.    


Skip to comment form

    • ctrenta on June 19, 2008 at 11:59 am
    • pico on June 19, 2008 at 6:38 pm

    the personal phone call to the reporter came because Obama himself had called her “sweetie” – he probably didn’t know about this particular incident until after it happened.  And the next day, he did this.

    So I agree that a more forthright apology and statement about respecting diversity would be nice, but I think you’re leaving out info to make it look worse than it is:

    Photographs from a Seattle rally earlier this year also clearly show a couple in Muslim garb behind the candidate.

    The administrator of the Muslims4Obama group on Obama’s website, which is not a formal part of the campaign, also said she had “not heard anything regarding Muslim supporters being steered away from sitting behind Sen. Obama at the event” and noted that he had Muslim supporters present at events in Minnesota, including one at which he stood with a Muslim member of Congress, Keith Ellison.

    I’m sure if Clinton or McCain had pulled someone in a head scarf from a photo op, people would be ripping into them.  But I hope we’d have the good sense to look at it in context no matter who the alleged perpetrator is.  Everything here points to an overzealous campaign member, and away from any actual negative attitudes that Obama has towards Muslims.

    • ctrenta on June 20, 2008 at 3:43 am

    Just caught this from Daily Kos:

    According to the NY Times, Barack Obama called the

    two Muslim women barred from the stage by Obama volunteers in


    They released a statement about it to The New York Times:

    At the rally for Senator Obama in Detroit on Monday, June 16, two

    volunteers denied us seating behind the stage the Senator would soon

    take. The volunteers informed us that we were not allowed to sit in

    that area due to the hijab, the headscarf that each of us was wearing.

    This incident was unfortunate and extremely disappointing. Senator

    Obama has called us each to personally convey his deepest apologies

    and acknowledge that this was inexcusable. We both immensely

    appreciate the Senator’s phone call and his commitment to remedy

    this issue. We commend him for displaying qualities befitting an

    effective President. We acknowledge that this injustice has been taken

    seriously and that Senator Obama does not tolerate discrimination

    against Arabs, Muslims or any community. We are assured that he and

    his staff are committed to upholding the principles of justice for all

    peoples and bringing about change we can believe in. The

    infringement on our rights occurred and has been addressed; now we

    are ready to move forward. We will continue to support Senator

    Obama in his campaign and wish him the best as the race continues.


    Shimaa Abdelfadeel

    Hebba Aref

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