Sen. Obama apologizes to 2 local Muslim women
By NIRAJ WARIKOO • FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER • June 19, 2008
Barack Obama personally called to apologize Thursday to the two Muslim women from Michigan barred from sitting next to him during a campaign rally Monday because they wore Islamic head scarves.
One of the women, Shimaa Abdelfadeel, told the Free Press that Obama called her "to personally convey his deepest apologies and acknowledge that this was inexcusable."
Obama also left a voice mail for the other woman, Hebba Aref, 25, of Bloomfield Hills, according to Abdelfadeel.
Obama volunteers didn't allow the two women to sit behind Obama at a Detroit rally on Monday out of fear their Muslim headscarves, known as hijab, would create a negative impression.
"We both immensely appreciate the Senator's phone call and his commitment to remedy this issue," Abdelfadeel said. "We commend him for displaying qualities befitting an effective President."
Speaking about the incident, Abdelfadeel said that on Monday, “two volunteers denied us seating behind the stage the Senator would soon take.”
She said “the volunteers informed us that we were not allowed to sit in that area due to the hijab.”
Abdelfadeel, a Sudanese-American, said that the “incident was unfortunate and extremely disappointing.” But she added that “we will continue to support Senator Obama in his campaign and wish him the best as the race continues.”
Dawud Walid, head of the Michigan branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, spoke with the two women and praised the apology from Obama.
“We welcome the Senator’s apology,” Walid said. “And we hope that he will continue to challenge bigotry wherever he sees it.”