An Obama campaign ban on green clothing during the candidate’s visits to Israel and Jordan has created wide puzzlement among observers of the Middle East.
In a memo to reporters, described as “a few guidelines we sent staff before departure to the Middle East,” Obama advance staffer Peter Newell laid out rules on attire for Jordan and Israel.
First among them: “Do not wear green.”
An Obama aide explained to reporters that green is the color associated with the militant Palestinian group Hamas. But while the color does appear on Hamas banners, there is no particular symbolism to wearing green clothes, experts said.
Moreover, green is more generally seen as a symbol of Islam.
“A ban on wearing green seems bizarre,” said Richard Bulliet, a professor of Middle Eastern history at Columbia University, who said the color is associated with the family of the Prophet Mohammed.
“I would hazard the guess that the campaign’s concern is more with distorted—and religiously inaccurate—reporting by Obama’s detractors than with any actual signal that might be conveyed,” he said, referring to false rumors that Obama is a Muslim. “You don’t want to have some blogger come along and say ‘Obama is showing his true color.’”
“I think they’re just being overcautious to a ridiculous degree,” Bulliet said.
Mohamad Bazzi, a professor of journalism at New York University and former Middle East bureau chief for Newsday, called the instruction “very strange.”
“I guess green is the ‘Hamas color’ — but it’s also the color of Islam!” Bazzi said in an email from Beirut. “That’s one way for the Obama campaign to alienate 1.4 billion Muslims worldwide.”
Though the campaign’s other sartorial instructions – directing women to dress demurely – are fairly standard, Bazzi said he’d never heard it suggested before that journalists not wear green while traveling in the Middle East, an observation echoed by other reporters. . . .
A spokesman for the Council on American Islamic Relations, Ibrahim Hooper, said Muslims might take offense at the campaign’s instruction.
“Are you kidding?” Hooper asked, when told of the memo, calling the move a “misstep.”
“The color green is associated with Islam worldwide,” he said. “Whether in some particularly tiny geographic location there’s some other local association based on politics is one thing, but to ask people not to wear green – are they going to ask people if he goes to Ireland, are they going to ask them not to wear green or orange?” (MORE)