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Between a Hijab and a Hard Place

Asma Hasan


Yesterday, many of you posted comments to my blog saying that I should consider becoming a Democrat or Independent as my Muslim heritage would be better respected there. In a pure coincidence, two of my fellow Muslim sisters (not related by blood but by our faith) were dissed by the Obama campaign. In two separate incidents at the same Detroit event, two Muslim women wearing hijab were not permitted to sit behind Obama at the rally, although other members of their respective groups were invited to sit.

I know what you are all going to say—that Obama has no other choice, that he has to fight this Muslim label being used to hurt him. While I understand, I do disagree. I think Obama does have another choice. As I have urged before on this blog, Obama has the eloquence to tackle Islamophobia in a thoughtful way, perhaps with a major speech and with rows of women in hijab standing all around him. But his campaign is instead actively feeding the Islamophobia—first, by having staffers who are not trained on the issue (a major oversight, in my opinion, considering the large population of American Muslims in Detroit), but also by the fact that the Obama campaign is trying to manufacture an image of Obama's supporters.

Not to mention Obama's continual denials of being Muslim. It's getting up there with "I am not a crook." Until Obama acknowledges his Muslim heritage, the rumors will persist. It's time for Obama to finally be the candidate who transcends this baloney, rather than say he is the candidate who will. I know he can do it because he does it all the time on other issues, and I would love it if he would.

I am so proud of my Muslim sisters, who handled the situatation with grace, and in particular, Hebba Aref, for telling the Obama Campaign, after their generic apology, that she wanted a personal apology from Obama and a front row seat at the next rally. As many of you suggested yesterday in your comments, things are not going to change until, like Hebba, we start fighting for the change ourselves.


June 19, 2008

Categories: Asma | Obama, Barack | Religion in the race
Comments (3)



It seems that it isn't the policy of the Obama campaign to do this, but his volunteers made the decision on their own. I think that's awful, nonetheless. If I were Obama, I'd have those volunteers dismissed, and I'd do what you suggest - make a speech about how "Muslim" is not a dirty word. I don't like how his campaign has handled the allegations that he's a Muslim, and I don't think these allegations are showing the best in people, either. I look forward to the day religious freedom means something.

jlclaw | Jun 19, 2008 3:57:17 PM

Personally, I was not upset about this. All candidates camps pick out the people who will be behind the candidates. I don't think Muslim people are the only ones who are singled out. Nor do I think Obama needs to accept and embrace his Muslim hertiage. If it is not a big part of his life why should he? I do not embrace and acknowledge all of MY ancestory, nor should I have to. The media and society have gotten way out of control in assessing candidates and their lives.

pinkflipflops | Jun 19, 2008 4:07:47 PM

How do you embrace the heritage given to you by a father you barely knew? I'm uncomfortable with the "I'm not Muslim" tap-dancing, (though I tend to think it can't be helped in the current climate, which is ugly and simplistic) but I think it's unlikely for any child of an absent parent to 'embrace' that parent's religious legacy. For any football fans out there, see Hines Ward and T.J. Houshmanzadeh as examples.

As for speaking out against Islamophobia, even Bush spoke out against Islamaphobia. It got lost in the din. I think Obama could do it, and do it effectively from a rhetorical standpoint, but I'm pretty cynical about the success of such a thing. does anyone else feel that way?

dindc | Jun 19, 2008 4:55:25 PM

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