Barack Obama needs to make a statement loudly, clearly, and with passion that he embraces Muslims as much as any other Americans of Christian, Buddhist, Jewish or other religious persuasions. It wouldn't hurt for him to embrace devout secularists like me for that matter.
But I'm irritated and saddened by news that Barack Obama's Muslim-outreach coordinator, Mazen Asbahi, has resigned "amid questions about his 'involvement' in an Islamic investment fund and various Islamic groups."
Let's tally up Obama's Muslim outreach record:
~ Obama campaign apparatchiks ask young Muslim women not to stand in photo with Obama because of head scarves (Obama campaign later apologizes).
~ Barack Obama gives AIPAC speech that manages to run to the right of President Bush and Israel Prime Minister Ohlmert in demanding that "Jerusalem must not be divided." (Obama later recants after the fact)
~ Barack Obama not only terminates Middle East advisor Robert Malley from his team because of Malley's views that Hamas should be engaged -- but his spokesman, Bill Burton, states that not only is Rob Malley no longer advising Obama "but will never advise Obama." That's running the bus over someone and then backing it up to make sure that Malley doesn't survive and has no chance in an Obama administration. I like to remind folks that Paul Volcker and Ted Sorensen signed the same letter Malley did but have thus far missed the campaign guillotine.
~ Barack Obama gives an inspirational speech to more than 200,000 Germans in Berlin calling for a "World Without Walls." But Obama is silent in Israel when it is the wall dividing Israelis and Palestinians that is becoming an increasingly worse and impactful global ulcer.
~ Barack Obama spends 30 plus hours in Israel and 45 minutes in Ramallah during his recent trip and meets many Iraelis who have been pro-settilement expansion, solidly violating international law and US policy. Some on Obama's advisory team turn a blind eye to Israel's expanding settlements and continue to be associated with and meet with settlement zealots -- but Obama keeps ALL of these people on his team.
~ Barack Obama accepts the resignation of a mainstream Arab-American lawyer from his advisory team because eight years ago, Mazen Asbahi served on a board "for a few weeks" that included a muslim fundamentalist imam from Illinois. Asbahi resigned from the board. . .eight years ago.
What? Wait? Obama has had a many years long relationship with Jeremiah Wright -- and sat on a board with William Ayers -- NEITHER of which I think are disqualifiers for Obama's candidacy... and yet Obama's political team and Obama himself did not demand from Asbahi that he stay on the team, stand his ground, and fight back against the vile right-wing hit on him and his credibility?!
I think that this is outrageous -- and those on the left who appreciate Obama and what he may mean for this country must become as tenaciously committed to what is right and what is good -- and fighting for that -- because those on the other side of these debates are trying to compel Obama to dilute himself.
Zalmay Khalilzad is an effective and popular MUSLIM Ambassador of the United States to the United Nations. We need more Muslims in our diplomatic corps. We need Muslims on the Supreme Court. We need more Muslims like Keith Ellison in the US Senate and House of Representatives.
Obama should say it. Convince the American public that he's not setting up a zero sum game between Muslims on one side and Christians and Jews on the other.
Obama is a Christian. I get that. I'm a secularist hard core -- but I won't stand by to watch more good people be flushed down the political drain because they are Muslims trying to work for a balanced and level playing field in America.
This resignation by Asbahi stinks -- and Obama and his team should immediately call him back and help him stand up to anti-Muslimism in America.
-- Steve Clemons publishes the popular political blog, The Washington Note