Steve Clemons gives the Barack Obama campaign a good thrashing from the left today for the candidate’s willingness to accept the resignation of his Muslim outreach coordinator, Mazen Asbahi. The Wall Street Journal reports that Asbahi, a Chicago lawyer, resigned because of questions about his ties to an Illinois-based Imam named Jamal Said who has been accused (though not indicted) of fundraising for Hamas. The two served together for a few weeks on the board of an Islamic investment fund back in 2000. Predictable smug outrage has followed on right-wing blogs.
According to the Journal, the tenuous connection between Asbahi and Said was first noted by the Global Muslim Brotherhood Daily Report, a subscription-only Web site that tracks the international activity of that Islamic party and its supporters. The WSJ says the Report is published by a “Washington think tank,” but there doesn’t seem to be any author or organizational affiliation mentioned on the site, and a Whois lookup yields no clues.
The Report employs a fairly loose definition of Muslim Brotherhood affiliates that includes fairly mainstream organizations such as the Islamic Society of North America and the Council on American-Islamic Relations. Amusingly, recent FP contributors Graham Fuller and Marc Lynch are also described as Muslim Brotherhood sympathizers. As Passport readers know, Lynch has indeed met with senior Brotherhood leaders in Cairo, but they hardly see eye to eye. Fuller’s supposed ties are of the six-degrees-of-Mahdi Akef variety.
By the standards of this site, you are not only a fellow traveler of the Muslim Brotherhood if you have defended them or recommended dialogue with them, you need only have been loosely associated with people who held those views. By this standard, there probably isn’t one prominent Muslim-American in the country that Obama could hire for the campaign. Anyone he could find who has never participated in an event that includes people with sympathies Obama might not agree with is probably not actually influential enough to win him any votes.
Even in a campaign full of trumped-up outrage and guilt by association, the Asbahi affair is pretty absurd. This is roughly the equivalent of Obama throwing Chris Rock under the bus because he once appeared in a movie with the anti-semitic Mel Gibson. If nothing else, it’s an indication of how rattled the Obama campaign is by all the Muslim rumors.