Almost since it began, Barack Obama’s campaign has had to fight a hostile rumor that the candidate is actually a Muslim–with the inference being that he might somehow be sympathetic to anti-American militants in the Middle East and South Asia. E-mails containing various versions of the charge have bounced all over cyberspace, to the point that the Obama campaign has launched a website dedicated to debunking what it calls “smears” against the candidate. Even New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg joined the fray last week, calling on Jewish residents in South Florida to denounce the Obama-is-a-Muslim e-mails.

But today, The New York Times describes what may be an added headache for the campaign: At least some American Muslims are beginning to feel that Obama, or at least his aides, are keeping them at a distance. As the Times reports:

In interviews, Muslim political and civic leaders said they understood that their support for Mr. Obama could be a problem for him at a time when some Americans are deeply suspicious of Muslims. Yet those leaders nonetheless expressed disappointment and even anger at the distance that Mr. Obama has kept from them.

In particular, the Times quotes Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), who in 2006 became the first Muslim elected to Congress, as saying Muslims are frustrated that “they have not been fully engaged” in the campaign. Although there is no certain measure of the Muslim population of the United States, scholars suggest 4 million to 6 million is a reasonable estimate–a potentially important voting segment.

The Times story closely follows an incident last week in which volunteers at an Obama rally in Michigan prevented two Muslim women in headscarves from taking seats on stage behind the candidate. Later, the senator telephoned the women, apologized for the incident and promised to fight discrimination “against people of any religious group or background.”



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