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Progressive Revival

Obama (finally!) Reaching Out to American Muslims

After some major bumps along the way, there is finally a very
encouraging sign in terms of the relationship between the historic Obama
Presidential campaign and the six million strong American Muslim

The Obama campaign has had a complex relationship with Muslims.
  Muslims have loved Obama, but for long time the campaign hasn’t
seemed to love them back.   Part of the challenge of course has been
that the corporate media, sadly combined with the Hilary Clinton campaign, has
often sought to appeal to the worst qualities among many Americans by calling
Obama Muslim.  While these have been led by much of Right wing media, even
the recent issue of New Yorker, which depicted the Obamas in “Muslim”
garb dressed as terrorists contributed to this environment. In fact about
12% of Americans still
believe Obama is Muslim
. While stating the obvious (that Obama has been a
committed Christian who got married in a church and has raised his family
Christian), it took the Obama campaign far too long to come out and state
the obvious about the “Muslim smear”:


You know, this
is actually an insult against Muslim-Americans, something that we don’t spend a
lot of time talking about. And sometimes I’ve been derelict in pointing that

You know, there are wonderful Muslim-Americans all across the country who are
doing wonderful things. And for this to be used as sort of an insult, or to
raise suspicions about me, I think is unfortunate. And it’s not what America’s all

One of the signs of things going the right way is Obama’s
appointment of a National
Coordinator for Muslim Affairs
. What a stark difference from the choice of
the Bush white house:  When Dubya appointed a Muslim representative to the
Organization of Islamic Conference, the choice was a rich Texas businessman
(shockingly, that sounds familiar) named Sada Cumber with
zero standing in the American Muslim community and celebrated only by
Neoconservatives at the Weekly
. Cumber was such an unknown that even many longtime
Muslim community leaders had to google the person that had been appointed to
represent America
to Muslims worldwide!  It was universally taken as a sad and pathetic
reflection of the Bush administration’s lack of engagement with American


 In contrast, Obama’s point person is Mazen Asbahi, a
longtime Chicago
lawyer with heavy involvement at the grassroots level of the Muslim community
there.   Even more positive is Asbahi’s involvement with the Nawawi Foundation, one of the leading centers
of Muslim thought in North America. The Nawawi
Foundation has been built around a leading scholar, Dr. Umar Faruq Abd-Allah, a
white American convert who has complete command of the intellectual and
spiritual heritage of Islam.    In brilliant papers available
online, the Nawawi Foundation has argued for ways that American Muslims can
come to harmonize their spiritual heritage  as Muslims with their cultural
matrix as citizens of the West, by looking to often overlooked examples of
Muslim minorities like those of Chinese Muslims. It is
this type of subtle and imaginative Islamic thought, with “street
cred” in the Muslim community and rooted in the tradition that is likely
to provide the most enduring answers to the “clash of civilizations”


If this is the type of imaginative Muslim contacts that Obama is
using, people that can both draw on the richest heritage of Islam and have
actual standing in the American Muslim community, maybe there is hope yet for a
healthy relationship between Obama and American Muslims.  That is not only
good news for the Obama campaign and American Muslims, it is also very much
good news for all of us who want to see a different model of relationship
between America
and Muslim-majority regions.


Comments read comments(16)
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posted July 30, 2008 at 4:54 pm

B.O. throws a couple of bread crumbs your way (i.e., appoints a Muslim outreach coordinator) … and you get all excited. He certainly has you well-trained.
Mr. Safi, don’t get too excited, however. Obama has this funny little habit of “throwing under the bus” anyone who gets in the way of his ambition. If he can do it even to his grandmother … he won’t think a second before doing it to you and your friends.

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NoBama NixCain

posted July 30, 2008 at 9:12 pm

Muslims getting even remotely happy about this is like an Evangelical Conservative American getting happy that Ted Nugent played a Les Paul with the American Flag on it in concert.

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posted July 30, 2008 at 10:58 pm

The Jesus pimps of the religious right will make a stink about this no matter what Obama does. If he reaches out to American Muslims, they will call him a Muslim. If he doesn’t they will call him a hypocrite.
To be honest, it’s time for Obama to disregard this ignorant group of religious opportunists. They are willing to use any lie to attack him, and their blind, drooling followers wouldn’t know truth if it was painted raspberry red and hitting them on the foot.
There are more important things Obama should be doing now than listening to folks who whore out Jesus for the GOP.

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Henrik Ræder Clausen

posted July 31, 2008 at 3:08 am

No surprise here. A little pandering to Muslim groups, pretending Islam is not a threat to democracy, and focusing more on proving himself not a Muslim rather than countering the Jihad movement in all its annoying details.
6 million potential votes is certainly enough to make him ignore the sides of Islam that led to 9/11. Just like Bush, Obama is underplaying the religious component of the terrorist menace, and thus unable to mount an effective defense against it.
Also, creating a coordinator for ‘Muslim’ affairs is a perfect strategy to deepen the divide between Muslims and, well, everybody else.
I hope McCain will do better.

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posted July 31, 2008 at 8:19 am

you know the problem with Muslims? You can’t please them, Ignore them, they get angry, show them some attention and they say its not enough. We should wake up and stop blaming the world for out\r downfalls and we should try and look to Bo and aspire to be like him. He is Black in a white society and he is playing the game to get there. Its about time some Muslim did that as opposed to blaming the world for all there miseries.

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posted July 31, 2008 at 12:44 pm

He needs to win select districts in Michigan and Virginia (and maybe some other states, perhaps Florida) that have larger Muslim populations. But it is progress…..

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posted July 31, 2008 at 1:58 pm

This is a false news that Obama has appointed a Muslim outreach person. He has appointed an Arab outreach person. Read the campaign announcement on their website:
Obama campaign has actually appointed an Arab outreach volunteer. There is no mention of Muslims in their official announcement.
The campaign seems to be responding the most common misunderstanding of the Muslim community that Muslims are Arabs. The fact is that only about 20% of Muslim Americans are Arabs. Most of them are South Asians and African Americans. Most Arab-Americans actually are Christians.
How this news turned into this way reflects more of the wishful thinking of Muslims then any wisdom on the part of Obama campaign who is too busy running away from American Muslims instead of challenging the bigots who are playing on the fear of Muslims.

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posted July 31, 2008 at 4:05 pm

The problem with gimmicks like this is that it really changes nothing.
Obama can not in any way try and put pressure on Israel either to make concessions to the other parties in the region or to stop settlements in the occupied territories. Since these are non-negotiable (By both parties in the American system) “American” Muslim groups and self-declared “leaders” are reduced to barking about bread crumbs and magnifying insignificant gestures as signs of “acceptance” or “progress”. We saw this in 2000 when Bush muttered some words about stopping the use of secret evidence against Arabs and all the Arab-American and Muslim American organizations squealed with joy. The bankrupted logic went that since Bush’s father put pressure on Israel in ’91 the son could do the same and bring wolves like Sharon to heel.
It was never mentioned that these same groups were heavily Saudi funded (look up the entire history of the American Muslim Council and its former director Abdurahman Alamoudi, something that former Clinton advisor Sidney Blumenthal touches upon in his book) and that Republican operatives (working primarily through Grover Norquist) established contacts between “sheikhs” and “American” Muslim groups and the GOP. The fact that an Obama has now appointed an a 2nd generation aspirant (whose own family and community campaigned for Bush in 2000) does not really change anything.

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posted July 31, 2008 at 4:40 pm

Bigots will be bigots. GO OBAMA! Speak the truth. There are bad atheists, christians, jews, hindus, buddhists, taoists, shintoists,or whateverists. Stop the cop out labelling to get what you want. God loves all, no exceptions. We’re all HIS creation, no exceptions. Those who hate are devilish. They make satan happy. They’ll have no salvation. Haters have their own baggage. They are unhappy and like to judge others. They have nothing better to do. They are depressed and miserable and probably have drug and alcohol problems. The Truth always wins, like it or not!

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posted August 2, 2008 at 9:46 am

In fact, Mr. Asbahi was appointed to fill both roles; this has nothing to do with anyone’s wishful thinking. This week, Mr. Asbahi sent an email to the National Arab Americans for Obama grassroots group on introducing himself as the National Coordinator for Muslim American Affairs and the National Coordinator for Arab American Affairs, stating, “I’m treating the two roles separately as these are two separate constituencies, though of course there is some overlap.”

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omid safi

posted August 3, 2008 at 6:23 pm

dear folks,
here is the text of the letter from Mr. Asbahi himself:
All –
Assalamu-Aleikum. My name is Mazen Asbahi and I’ve been blessed and privileged to be serving the Obama for America Campaign as the National Coordinator for Muslim American Affairs. I’m also coordinating Arab American matters. I’m treating the two roles separately as these are two separate constituencies, though of course there is some overlap.
In order to get Senator Obama elected, the Campaign needs all of you to continue your support and if possible to take it to another level. It’s a race for every vote in the key battleground states, such as Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Ohio. 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. 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.
If you have not plugged into the Campaign, please do. The Campaign makes it very easy to do. Visit your local Obama offices and register voters, raise money, get the word out, and pull in your friends and family to also participate.
Please feel free to contact me with ideas, critiques and suggestions for improvements on our outreach strategies. (Please keep in mind that I’ve just signed on :)).
Mazen Asbahi
Mazen Asbahi | National Coordinator for Muslim American Affairs | Obama for America | | 312.933.5423 cell
all the best,
omid safi

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David Israel

posted August 6, 2008 at 8:59 am

This just in: “The Muslim-outreach coordinator to the presidential campaign of Barack Obama has resigned amid questions about his involvement in an Islamic investment fund and various Islamic groups.”
–WSJ, 8/6/08

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A Very Concerned American

posted October 28, 2008 at 4:01 pm

If it walks like a duck, etc. etc. as the saying goes. I have always felt that Obama would do wonders for the advancement of muslims in America. This is why we CANNOT let him get elected. Ameicans will NOT become another Britain. We will NOT allow the rape and deterioration of our country. Obama will open ALL the borders. WAKE UP AMERICA!!! You want CHANGE? Well, you are certainly going to get it if you put this man in charge. Not only will your dollars turn to “change”, but your world will NEVER be the same again. And you have to seriously think about this in one week. Change for the worst is the worst change you could ask for–and with Obama, that’s the change you are going to get.

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posted November 7, 2008 at 4:16 pm

OMG This is so freakin anti american, this is america not middle east why cant Obama go be president where he belongs. not here. we are not islamic and if you are GET THE HECK OUT!! you are the cause of all our problems in america MUSLIMS have screwed us one too many times and yet they just sit back and LIVE HERE!!! OMG this is insane and now you get your own stamp in our country… what in the world is wrong with our once great nation.. UNDER GOD… UNDER GOD did you hear that ONE NATION UNDER GOD.. LIBERTY AND JUUUUSSSSTICE for all. so get the heck out IN GOD WE TRUST NOt allah not a cow not a horse or a pig or a SHIRT or a pencil IN GOD!!!!!!!!!!

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posted November 7, 2008 at 4:18 pm

I AGREE WITH Smith!!!! This is one nation under God. and should be that way forever… And we paid a heavy price to get that and Obama cant appreciate that..

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posted March 28, 2010 at 6:35 pm

Houses are expensive and not everyone can buy it. However, credit loans was created to support people in such kind of situations.

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