For nearly two years detractors have accused Barack Obama of being a Muslim. Ultra-conservative commentators have referred to him as B. Hussein Obama and deliberately likened his surname to bin Laden’s first name Osama.

He has defended himself while also condemning the prejudice toward Muslims these acts reflect. As a presidential candidate he has stumped relentlessly on unity, equality and justice.

So to hear of him snubbing two Muslim women at a Detroit political rally in June rang dissonant. In case you missed the incident, I’ll explain.

Shimaa Abdelfadeel and Hebba Aref, the two women, went to the rally at the Joe Louis Arena with separate groups of friends. When their friends were approached by campaign volunteers to sit on the stage, Abdelfadeel and Aref were uninvited because each wore the headscarf some Muslim women wear for religious reasons.

Criticism billowed from the episode, which Obama quickly condemned, and he called both women to apologize. But from Illinois to India headlines kept the so-called snub alive. It took me a while to find local Muslims who would tell me what they made of it. Many said they feared retribution.

Dina Adbel Mooti, a 13-year-old Mesa View Middle School student, was the first to speak her mind. Her family came to the United States from Alexandria, Egypt, 11 years ago and moved to Huntington Beach from Los Angeles earlier this year.

Dina believes Obama is a fair man and doesn’t fault him for what happened. Were she old enough to vote, she wrote in an e-mail message, she would register as a Democrat to vote for him. That he apologized to the two women, Mooti wrote, “made him look bigger in my eyes.” She says she and her whole family are confident that Obama, as president, would treat all citizens equally whichever “religion, color or gender they are.”

Mike Malley, who with his brother Aziz runs FamVans, a commercial vehicle sales and service company in Fountain Valley, didn’t take offense at what happened, either. He chalked it up to “what needs to be said and done publicly to win a seat in American government.”

He plans to vote for Obama, who for Malley represents “a different approach” than the Bush administration of the last eight years. He is especially weary of the intransigent war in Iraq, which he thinks we never should have begun.

He thinks Americans now know Iraq wasn’t involved with the Sept. 11 attacks and never had aspirations to attack our nation. Muslims and Arabs, he wrote, especially long for the United States “to regain its voice and power throughout the world as one of truth, justice and freedom.” (MORE)


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