Progressive Revival

If you want to understand just how difficult it can be for Muslims to participate in public service, look no further than my friend Mazen Asbahi.  An accomplished attorney and long-time Democratic volunteer, he took on the position of Sen. Obama’s national coordinator for Muslim and Arab affairs last week.  Unfortunately, he resigned yesterday out of fear that his appointment would be a distraction to the campaign. 

The source of his worry?  The fact that he had served on a board of directors, for a few weeks, with an imam considered by some to be an extremist, as well as his being an officer of the Muslim Students Association while he was in college.  Mazen himself was not accused of being an extremist, or even of supporting extremist groups and/or causes.  Yet this was enough to ensure his quick departure from the campaign, after only a week of work.
Think about this for a moment.  No reasonable person would link the reputation or activities of one board member to another, especially (as was the case with Mazen) when you had no say in the nomination or election of that other board member.  And being an officer in a Muslim student group – nearly all of which operate independently of the national MSA – is only a liability if that particular student group is accused of wrongdoing, which Mazen’s MSA wasn’t.
Mazen is a loyal Democrat who has worked tirelessly to help mobilize millions of Muslim and Arab votes this coming November, and he has by all accounts a stellar professional reputation.  But two very tenuous “links” – if you want to call them that – were enough to erase an entire adult lifetime of achievement and cast an unfair suspicion over him that will follow him through the rest of his life (thank you, Google).
When I spoke to him last week, he was excited about the possibility of bringing more Muslims and Arabs into the political system, to prove that our communities can be a net positive contributor to the societies in which we live.  I cannot imagine another qualified Muslim daring to follow in his footsteps, only to be subjected to second/third/fourth-degree of separation accusations and (as we like to say in political circles) “be thrown under the bus”.
The very people who fight to push Muslims out of the public square are also the ones clamoring for our communities to get out in the streets and prove our loyalty to the US.  If only they could see the contradiction for themselves.
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