Obama Website Riles Muslims

Beth Reinhard, Miami Herald, July 6, 2008

Vanessa Alikhan was at a Democratic “unity party” when she overheard another guest indignantly refute the rumor that Barack Obama is Muslim, as if it were a racial slur. She later recounted the conversation to a friend.

“She told me that this is politics and that I should just deal with it,” said Alikhan, a Fort Lauderdale graphic artist who converted to Islam about five years ago. “To me this is the same as telling an African American or a Jewish person they should deal with discrimination because people aren’t ready to embrace them as a group.”

She and other American Muslims are speaking out, as the Obama campaign pushes back on widely e-mailed and patently false claims that he is tied to Islamic terrorists. The rumor could be particularly damaging in a must-win state like Florida, which has a large Jewish population.

{snip} While Muslim leaders understand the campaign’s responsibility to counter misinformation, they say the classification of being Muslim as a “smear” goes too far.

Their outrage peaked when the Obama campaign asked two women wearing head scarves to move away from the candidate—and the television cameras—at a rally last month in Detroit. Obama personally apologized to the women, but the incident reflected the difficulties of balancing hard-nosed political calculations with the campaign’s overall message of change and unity.


But some Muslim leaders said Obama needs to do more to make it clear that he welcomes their support in his campaign. Though he’s spoken at many churches and synagogues—including a conservative congregation in Boca Raton—he has never visited a mosque, said Altaf Ali, executive director of the South Florida chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. There are between 200,000 and 400,000 Muslims in Florida and about seven million nationwide.


Saif Ishoof, president of the Center for Voter Advocacy, a nonpartisan group that educates Muslims about the political process, said Republican John McCain also needs to show more sensitivity.

Ishoof, a lifelong Republican, said he bristles when McCain consistently refers to “Islamic terrorists.”


Though the Muslim community pales in comparison to other religious voting blocs in Florida, Ishoof noted that it is concentrated in central Florida, the battleground region of the state.


Muslim voters could make the difference in several states crucial to winning the White House, including Michigan, Ohio and Virginia.

“Every vote is going to be critical,” Ishoof said.



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