Two Muslim women at Barack Obama's rally in Detroit on Monday were barred from sitting behind the podium by campaign volunteers seeking to prevent the women's headscarves from appearing in photographs or on television with the candidate.
The campaign has apologized to the women, both Obama supporters who said they felt betrayed by their treatment at the rally.
"This is of course not the policy of the campaign. It is offensive and counter to Obama's commitment to bring Americans together and simply not the kind of campaign we run," said Obama spokesman Bill Burton. "We sincerely apologize for the behavior of these volunteers."
In Detroit on Monday, the two different Obama volunteers — in separate incidents — made it clear that headscarves wouldn't be in the picture. The volunteers gave different explanations for excluding the hijabs, one bluntly political and the other less clear.
The men said the volunteer, a twenty-something African-American woman in a green shirt, asked if their friends looked and were dressed like the young men, who were all light-skinned and wearing suits. Miller said yes, but mentioned that one of their friends was wearing a headscarf with her suit.
The volunteer "explained to me that because of the political climate and what's going on in the world and what's going on with Muslim Americans, it's not good for [Aref] to be seen on TV or associated with Obama," said Koussan, who is a law student at Wayne State University.
When they said they were with Abdelfadeel, the volunteer told them their friend would have to take the headscarf off or stay out of the special section, Marino said. They declined the seats.
After recovering from the shock of the incident, Abdelfadeel went to look for the volunteer and confronted her minutes later, she said in an e-mail interview with Politico.
"We're not letting anyone with anything on their heads like baseball [caps] or scarves sit behind the stage," she paraphrased the volunteer as saying, an account Marino confirmed. "It has nothing to do with your religion!"
In most work and school settings, religious dress — such as Jewish yarmulkes, Sikh turbans, Muslim hijabs — is permitted where secular clothing like baseball caps is not.
"The scarf is not just something she can take off — it's part of her identity," said Marino.
Photographs of the event also show men with hats in the section behind Obama and former Vice President Al Gore, though not directly behind the candidate.
OK. Alright. You say it was just a volunteer making a mistake? Rather, it was two volunteers. And doesn't the "oh my staffer/volunteer made a mistake" line sound familiar? Yes! That's the same cop out Barbara Boxer used last year to justify Islamophobic actions on her end.
I want to understand. I really do. Somebody please explain to me why we are even bothering with these particular politicians? For intelligent and informed activists, isn't this becoming an issue of self respect?
Update (06/19/2008): Obama Apologizes to Muslim Women for Treatment at Rally