Barack Obama's campaign recently launched a new Web site called "Fight the Smears," dedicated to dispelling damaging and inaccurate rumors about the Democratic presidential candidate.
One so-called "smear:" that he is a Muslim.
While his father was a non-practicing Muslim, Obama is a Christian. But the way in which Obama is fighting the rumor has left some Muslims with "a bitter taste," said Mongi Dhaouadi, executive director of the Connecticut branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
"He did not say, 'Well, what is wrong with being a Muslim?' as if he's saying that being a Muslim does not qualify you to run for president," Dhaouadi said.
Local Muslim leaders and political science experts differ in their beliefs over whether Obama's camp had done anything truly offensive in fighting the rumor. But they agreed that Obama's behavior, which included other incidents some perceived as attempts to distance himself from the Muslim community, would have little or no negative impact on Muslim voters.
"I think (Obama's) overcompensating in keeping a distance from the Muslim-American community," said Ahmed Rehab, a spokesperson for CAIR at the national level, calling it a "strategic mistake" because "it's not compatible with his message."
He noted that Obama has visited many churches and synagogues, but "has yet to show up at a mosque and address Muslim concerns."
But Shafiq Abdussabur, a New Haven police officer, liaison with a youth outreach program and a Muslim in the process of opening a school focused on Islamic theology and culture, wasn't at all offended by Obama's behavior.
"Barack Obama is running for president of the United States for everybody that lives in this country. He's not running for president of the Muslims. He's not running for president of the black people," Abdussabur said. "I don't think that a president needs to segregate himself and get all the way down to a specific culture campaigning because that's what they're asking the man to do."
Abdussabur stressed that as the first serious African-American presidential contender, Obama is up against enough challenges and "aligning himself now with the Muslim community is not in his best interest" because it could conjure additional stereotypes. (MORE)