Archive for the ‘National Coordinator’ Category

Obama’s National Muslim/Arab-American Coordinator Resigns

August 11, 2008

Senator Barack Obama’s newly appointed national Arab-American and Muslim outreach coordinator has resigned amid questions over his brief connection to a man whom the Justice Department named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the racketeering trial last year of several alleged Hamas fundraisers.

Mazen Asbahi, a Chicago lawyer with the law firm Schiff Hardin, was appointed June 26 to help Obama reach out to Muslims and Arab-Americans. Ten days later, amid questions posed by the Wall Street Journal about a possible link between him and an imam who had questionable ties to Hamas, Asbahi stepped down.

The Wall Street Journal had inquired about Asbahi’s relationship with Jamal Saaed. The two served together for a few weeks in 2000 on a board that is a subsidiary of the North American Islamic Trust, which holds titles to mosques, Islamic centers, schools, and other real estate nationwide. Saaed, an imam at a reportedly fundamentalist-controlled mosque in Illinois, had been named in an investigation of alleged Hamas fundraisers, which ended in a mistrial last year, the paper reported.

The connection between Asbahi and Saaed was first noted by the Global Muslim Brotherhood Daily Report, a Washington based web site that tracks the international activity of that Islamic party and its international supporters.

In his resignation statement released by the Obama campaign August 5, Asbahi explained, “In 2000, I agreed to serve as a member of the board of trustees of the Dow Jones Islamic Index Fund. I served on that board for only a few weeks before resigning as soon as I became aware of public allegations against another member of the board. Since concerns have been raised about that brief time, I am stepping down from the volunteer role I recently agreed to take on with the Obama campaign as Arab American and Muslim American outreach coordinator in order to avoid distracting from Barack Obama’s message of change.”

After his appointment, Ashbahi had written on the campaign’s blog, “We need Muslim Americans to get excited about the Campaign, and there’s a lot to get excited about.

“Sure, there have been mis-steps,” he said. “And of course there are added sensitivities with our faith given the “smear” campaign trying to paint the Senator as too exotic and too un-American to be President.”

Dawud Walid, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations’ Michigan chapter, said Asbahi was a victim of Internet rumors. “This incident just shows how Islamophobia and the political climate is right now. Baseless smears about a Muslim with a very good reputation was used to marginalize not only him but the community from the political process,” Walid said.

America’s largest Islamic civil liberties group defended the Democratic presidential hopeful two days after Asbahi resigned his volunteer post.

“Muslim bashers play a ‘six degrees of separation’ game of guilt by association with any Muslim who dares to engage in positive social or political activism,” said Ahmed Rehab, executive director for the Chicago chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).
The Obama campaign has announced it will appoint a new person to the job.

What are your thoughts? Should the Obama campaign have asked Asbahi not to leave? Are brief connections such as the one between Asbahi and Saaed even relative?