Sen. Barack Obama today called the two Muslim women who were barred from sitting behind him at his Detroit rally to apologize, one of the women and two other sources said.
“Sen. Obama called himself and he apologized to each of us,” one of the women, lawyer Hebba Aref, told me just now.
Aref, who had suggested that an appropriate fix might be seating her behind Obama at some future event, said she’d also discussed that possibility with his staff.
Aref and Shimaa Abdelfadeel had been barred from sitting behind Obama on Monday by volunteers concerned that they would appear on camera with him while wearing headscarves.
UPDATE: Aref and Abdelfadeel email over a statement:
At the rally for Senator Obama in Detroit on Monday, June 16, two volunteers denied us seating behind the stage the Senator would soon take. The volunteers informed us that we were not allowed to sit in that area due to the hijab, the headscarf that each of us was wearing.
This incident was unfortunate and extremely disappointing. Senator Obama has called us each to personally convey his deepest apologies and acknowledge that this was inexcusable. We both immensely appreciate the Senator’s phone call and his commitment to remedy this issue. We commend him for displaying qualities befitting an effective President. We acknowledge that this injustice has been taken seriously and that Senator Obama does not tolerate discrimination against Arabs, Muslims or any community. We are assured that he and his staff are committed to upholding the principles of justice for all peoples and bringing about change we can believe in. The infringement on our rights occurred and has been addressed; now we are ready to move forward. We will continue to support Senator Obama in his campaign and wish him the best as the race continues.
UPDATE: Obama puts out a statement through his Senate office:
I reached out to Ms. Aref and Ms. Abdelfadeel this afternoon. I spoke with Ms. Abdelfadeel, and expressed my deepest apologies for the incident that occurred with volunteers at the event in Detroit. The actions of these volunteers were unacceptable and in no way reflect any policy of my campaign. I take deepest offense to and will continue to fight against discrimination against people of any religious group or background. Our campaign is about bringing people together, and I’m grateful that Ms. Abdelfadeel accepted our apology and I hope Ms. Aref and any who were offended accept my apology as well.