Jewish World Review
June 19, 2008
/ 16 Sivan 5768
Muslim woman demands an apology from Obama after camera snub
Was told that because of a sensitive political environment, Dem presidential candidate should not be photographed with Muslims wearing head scarves
JewishWorldReview.com | (MCT)
ETROIT One of two Muslim women who were denied visible seats behind Barack Obama's stage at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit on Monday because they wore head scarves said they deserve a personal apology from Obama and close-up seats at a future campaign rally.
Hebba Aref, 25, and her friend, Shimaa Abdelfadeel, received apologies from the campaign Tuesday after they complained that they were not allowed to sit near the podium when campaign volunteers learned that they wear the traditional Muslim head garb called a hijab.
Aref said a group of her friends and friends of Abdelfadeel were approached separately by two different campaign volunteers at Joe Louis Arena. In each case, she said, the friends were told Aref and Abdelfadeel would not be allowed near the stage because of their head scarves.
Aref said one aide told her friends that because of a sensitive political environment, Obama should not be photographed with Muslims wearing head scarves.
Aref said she was especially disappointed because she was attracted to Obama's message of unity and inclusion. She said she'd like more than an apologetic phone call from a campaign official.
"I was kind of in shock that had happened," said Aref, a Bloomfield Hills, Mich., resident and graduate of the University of Michigan Law School. "I've lived here practically my whole life, and never been treated that way. It's so ironic that it was at his rally; he obviously would not promote any discrimination at all."
Aref's aunt, Dr. Eman Salem, a Bloomfield Hills anesthesiologist, said said she was outraged when she learned of what had happened to her niece at the rally.
"This is an insult to all Muslims," said Salem, 50, a Canadian citizen who said she has worked in the U.S. for five years. "I wouldn't take my hijab off for anyone. It doesn't prevent Muslims from accomplishing anything. We take pride in our religion and we take pride in our citizenship."
Salem said her family has supported Obama. Salem said she attended his recent visit to Troy High School.
Aref said she received a phone call and apology from an Obama campaign official, but said that's not enough.
"I do appreciate they're taking the time to look into what happened," Aref said. "I think it's a huge deal. I was hoping for an apology from Senator. Obama himself. He needs to send a strong message this kind of discrimination won't be tolerated."
Campaign spokesman spokesman Bill Burton told Politico.com that the campaign does not have a policy that bars Muslims wearing head scarves away from Obama. The campaign sent the Detroit Free Press photographs of Obama at previous campaign events with supporters wearing head scarves near him.
"It is offensive and counter to Obama's commitment to bring Americans together and simply not the kind of campaign we run," Burton was quoted as saying. "We sincerely apologize for the behavior of these volunteers."
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© 2008, Detroit Free Press Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services