The Arab-American and Muslim-American outreach coordinator for Barack Obama's campaign has resigned following disclosures about his past association with a radical Muslim cleric.
Mazen Asbahi, an associate with the Chicago law firm Schiff Hardin, quit on Monday, saying he did not want to be a distraction to the Obama campaign.
For several weeks in 2000, Asbahi served on the board of an Islamic investment fund. Also serving on the board at that time was Jamal Said, an imam at a Chicago-area mosque known for his radical views, The Jerusalem Post reported.
The Justice Department named Said as an unindicted co-conspirator in the racketeering trial last year of several alleged Hamas fundraisers. The case ended in a mistrial.
Asbahi’s link to Said was first disclosed by an Internet newsletter last week.
Asbahi said in his resignation letter: “In 2000, I agreed to serve as a member of the board of trustees of the Dow Jones Islamic Index Fund. 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.
"Since concerns have been raised about that brief time, I am stepping down from the volunteer role I recently agreed to take on with the Obama campaign as Arab-American and Muslim-American outreach coordinator in order to avoid distracting from Barack Obama's message of change.”
Asbahi joined the campaign at the end of Obama's recent Middle East and European trip.
His resignation demonstrates "the difficulty of charting the waters of Islamophopia in this election cycle," Ahmed Rehab, executive director of the Chicago Council of American-Islamic Relations, told The Chicago Sun-Times, which noted:
“Obama, a Christian whose middle name is Hussein — and whose father and stepfather have Muslim roots — is continuing to wrestle with false rumors that he is a Muslim.”
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