Volunteers blocked Muslims from being seen with Obama

Two Muslim women were told they could not sit behind the candidate at a recent appearance unless they removed their head scarves.

Published June 18, 2008 4:45PM (EDT)

Apparently, Barack Obama's campaign -- or, at least, some low-level people within it -- is more worried about the persistent rumors about his religion than it lets on. Politico's Ben Smith reports that before Obama's rally in Detroit in Monday, two Muslim women were told they'd have to remove their head scarves, which would have made their religious beliefs clear.

"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," Smith quotes one of the two women, Hebba Aref, a 25-year-old lawyer, as saying. "The message that I thought was delivered to us was that they do not want him associated with Muslims or Muslim supporters."

Two separate volunteers, in separate incidents, were involved. One volunteer reportedly gave an explicitly political reason for turning one of the women away. But Bill Burton, an Obama spokesman, says the incidents don't reflect campaign policy, and the campaign has apologized to both women.

"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," Burton said. "We sincerely apologize for the behavior of these volunteers."

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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