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Obama workers snub 2 Muslim women

June 19, 2008|From the Chicago Tribune

WASHINGTON — Hebba Aref was in the running to appear on stage at a campaign event for Barack Obama the other day when a volunteer learned that Aref, a Muslim, would be wearing a head scarf.

That's when the invitation to appear behind the Democratic presidential candidate for the television cameras suddenly evaporated, with a volunteer for the Obama campaign citing politics as the reason.

"This is not meant to be any slam on Obama," said Sharif Aref, Hebba Aref's brother, who attended the rally with her. But "this type of discrimination is occurring everywhere -- in the North, South and even at Obama rallies."

On Wednesday, the Obama campaign apologized for the volunteer's actions, as well as for those of another volunteer who reportedly told a Muslim supporter she could be part of the backdrop if she removed her scarf. The incidents were first reported by

The volunteers at the event in Detroit were not acting on the directions of campaign staff, aides to Obama said.

"This is, of course, not the policy of the campaign," said Obama spokesman Bill Burton.

In fact, Obama has appeared in public with Muslim supporters on a number of occasions, and the day after the Monday incidents he was photographed with a group of supporters that included a woman wearing a head scarf. The campaign said it had called the women to apologize after learning of the incidents.

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