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Obama’s Muslim-Outreach Adviser Resigns
Obama’s Muslim-Outreach Adviser Resigns
The Muslim-outreach coordinator to the presidential campaign of Barack Obama has resigned amid questions about his involvement in an Islamic investment fund and various Islamic groups.
Wednesday, August 6,2008 03:10
by Glenn R. Simpson and Amy Chozick WSJ

The Muslim-outreach coordinator to the presidential campaign of Barack Obama has resigned amid questions about his involvement in an Islamic investment fund and various Islamic groups.

 

Chicago lawyer Mazen Asbahi, who was appointed volunteer national coordinator for Muslim American affairs by the Obama campaign on July 26, stepped down Monday after an Internet newsletter wrote about his brief stint on the fund"s board, which also included a fundamentalist imam.

"Mr. Asbahi has informed the campaign that he no longer wishes to serve in his volunteer position, and we are in the process of searching for a new national Arab American and Muslim American outreach coordinator," spokesman Ben LaBolt said in a statement.

A corporate lawyer at the firm of Schiff Hardin LLP, Mr. Asbahi tendered his resignation after he and the Obama campaign received emailed inquiries about his background from The Wall Street Journal. He did not respond to the email or a message left at his law office; the campaign released a letter in which Mr. Asbahi said he did not want to be a distraction.

The Obama campaign is trying to strike a balance between courting Muslim American voters and dispelling rumors intended by some to link the candidate to radical Islam. Sen. Obama is a Christian.

 

Until Mr. Asbahi joined the campaign, Sen. Obama did not have a Muslim-outreach coordinator and had relied on the Democratic National Committee"s efforts. The campaign has long had its own outreach efforts to Catholic, evangelical Christian and Jewish voters. Some Muslim voters have complained about the disparity. An Obama aide says Mr. Asbahi was brought on in part to bridge that perceived gap and to reach out to Muslim communities in Florida, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia, states seen as among the most competitive this fall.

 

"We need Muslim Americans to get excited about the Campaign, and there"s a lot to get excited about!" Mr. Asbahi wrote in a statement posted on a blog when he was appointed. "Sure, there have been mis-steps," he added.

 

In 2000, Mr. Asbahi briefly served on the board of Allied Assets Advisors Fund, a Delaware-registered trust. Its other board members at the time included Jamal Said, the imam at a fundamentalist-controlled mosque in Illinois.

 

"I served on that board for only a few weeks before resigning as soon as I became aware of public allegations against another member of the board," Mr. Asbahi said in his resignation letter. "Since concerns have been raised about that brief time, I am stepping down...to avoid distracting from Barack Obama"s message of change."

The eight-year-old connection between Mr. Asbahi and Mr. Said was raised last week by the Global Muslim Brotherhood Daily Report, which is published by a Washington think tank and chronicles the activities of the Muslim Brotherhood, a world-wide fundamentalist group based in Egypt. Other Web sites, some pro-Republican and others critical of fundamentalist Islam, also have reported on the background of Mr. Asbahi. He is a frequent speaker before several groups in the U.S. that scholars have associated with the Muslim Brotherhood.

 

The Justice Department named Mr. Said an unindicted co-conspirator in the racketeering trial last year of several alleged Hamas fund-raisers, which ended in a mistrial. He has also been identified as a leading member of the group in news reports going back to 1993.

 

Mr. Said is the imam at the Bridgeview Mosque in Bridge-view, Ill., outside Chicago. He left the board of the Islamic fund in 2005, Securities and Exchange Commission filings state. A message left for Mr. Said at the mosque was not returned.

Allied Asset Advisors is a subsidiary of the North American Islamic Trust. The trust, which is supported financially by the government of Saudi Arabia, holds title to many mosques in the U.S. and promotes a conservative brand of Islam compatible with the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood and also akin to the fundamentalist style predominant in Saudi Arabia. Allied executives did not respond to inquiries.

 

Write to Glenn R. Simpson at glenn.simpson@wsj.com and Amy Chozick at amy.chozick@wsj.com

 


Posted in Political Islam Studies , Reports , Obama  
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