Obama’s Campaign Makes Mistakes with Muslim Outreach

October 10, 2008 at 11:40 am Leave a comment

The Obama campaign said it was a mistake for an outreach coordinator to
join a meeting last month attended by leaders of two controversial
Muslim groups as it seeks votes from large Muslim populations in swing
states.

Minha Husaini, newly named as head of the campaign’s outreach
coordinator to Muslims, attended a discussion session Sept. 15 with
about 30 Muslim leaders and community members in suburban Washington,
the Obama campaign confirmed. Participants included leaders of the
Council of American-Islamic Relations and the Muslim American Society,
which have been cited by the government in the past for ties to the
Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas.

In August, the campaign’s previous coordinator, Mazen Asbahi,
resigned over a similar issue, pointing up one kind of challenge facing
the campaign: pursuing the votes of the Muslim community while not
perpetuating any misunderstandings about Sen. Barack Obama’s religion.
Sen. Obama is a Christian.

Mr. Asbahi, who also attended the meeting now entangling Ms.
Husaini, resigned after questions arose about his brief tenure on the
board of an Islamic investment fund along with a controversial Illinois
imam. At the time, campaign officials said he was stepping down because
he didn’t want to become a distraction for the campaign.

Thursday, campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt, responding to questions
about the September session in Springfield, Va., said Ms. Husaini
wouldn’t have attended had she known that Council of American-Islamic
Relations and Muslim American Society leaders were going to be there.

“This meeting was not organized by the campaign,” he said. “Our
outreach staff attends many meetings in the course of each day, and
they accepted an invitation from community leaders to attend.” The
campaign declined to make Ms. Husaini available for comment.

Winning over Muslim voters is important to the campaigns of both
Sens. Obama and John McCain as they try to gain support from large
Muslim communities in the key states of Florida, Michigan, Ohio,
Pennsylvania and Virginia.

Mr. LaBolt said campaign workers’ efforts are aimed at acquaint
Muslim voters with Sen. Obama’s positions and to work on voter turnout.
“We have a whole faith outreach effort that includes interacting with
mosque leaders,” he said.

One attendee at the Springfield meeting was Mahdi Bray, executive
director of the Muslim American Society’s Freedom Foundation. The
Justice Department has asserted in court proceedings that the society’s
organizers were members of the Muslim Brotherhood, a global group
promoting political Islam.

Nihad Awad, executive director of CAIR, also attended the session,
as did the group’s legislative director. The government named CAIR an
unindicted coconspirator in the Justice Department’s racketeering
prosecution last year of alleged Hamas fund-raisers. CAIR said the
designation was unjustified; the case ended in a mistrial, but is being
brought again by the government.

Mr. Awad declined to comment. Mr. Bray didn’t respond to a request
for comment. The Obama campaign said it couldn’t comment on Mr.
Asbahi’s attendance at the session.

Source: Wall Street Journal

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