“Muslim liaison for presidential campaign resigns after connections to Muslim community are found.”
No, that’s not a fake headline from The Onion, the popular newspaper parodying everyday political and cultural absurdities. And no, it’s not the concept of a skit from “Saturday Night Live.”
It is however the gist of a real story from the Wall Street Journal announcing the resignation of Mazen Asbahi from his position as the national coordinator for Muslim-American affairs for Sen. Barack Obama’s campaign.
Resignations from presidential campaigns are not uncommon.
This year, Geraldine Ferraro stepped down from her position on the finance committee of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign after making racially charged remarks about Obama. Samantha Power, an Obama foreign policy adviser, resigned after calling Clinton a monster. Phil Gramm, a top adviser to John McCain, resigned from his role as campaign co-chairman after his comments that the United States had become a “nation of whiners.”
But although most are forced to resign for what they said or what they did, Asbahi had to resign for who he is: A Muslim who is well-connected within his own community.
I have known Asbahi for over a decade. As a patriotic young American Muslim, he had always dreamed of the opportunity to one day serve his country. He did more than dream; he worked hard to obtain his law degree cum laude from one of the nation’s top schools, Northwestern University. He landed a prestigious position at a top law firm, Schiff Hardin. He remained active in his community, working tirelessly to encourage civic engagement.
When the Obama campaign sought a liaison for the American Muslim community, Asbahi was a natural pick. Yet a few days later, he is out in the cold.
His resignation from his volunteer position came amid claims that he had “connections” to “fundamentalist Muslims.” Asbahi himself was not accused of being a fundamentalist mind you, but his mere acquaintance with someone who is accused of being one was apparently enough to stain him.
More on this acquaintance later.
The Asbahi affair is the latest episode in a long list of anti-Muslim blunders that have tainted the 2008 presidential campaigning since the primaries. It makes for a case study that offers ample insight into the origin, nature and mechanics of today’s Islamophobia. (MORE)
Ahmed M. Rehab is the executive director of the Chicago chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.