August 6th, 2008
02:43 PM ET
15 years ago

Obama's Muslim affairs coordinator resigns

[cnn-photo-caption image=
caption="Obama’s campaign says it is looking for a new Muslim outreach adviser."]

(CNN) - After barely a week on the job, Barack Obama's Muslim outreach adviser resigned from the campaign after an old business connection with a fundamentalist Islamic imam surfaced last week.

Mazen Asbahi, a Chicago corporate lawyer, stepped down Monday after joining the campaign on July 26 as its national coordinator for Muslim affairs. The Wall Street Journal first reported the resignation on Tuesday night.

In a letter to the campaign, Asbahi wrote, "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 served on the board of the Delaware-based Allied Assets Advisors Fund for a brief period in 2000 with Jamal Said, the imam of a fundamentalist mosque outside Chicago, the Wall Street Journal reports. The report links Said to fundamentalist groups Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood and says he was named by the Justice Department as an unindicted co-conspirator in the racketeering trial of suspected Hamas fundraisers that ended in a mistrial.

"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," Asbahi wrote in his letter to the campaign.

The fund is a subsidiary of a company that promotes a conservative brand of Islam and Asbahi regularly speaks to groups with ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, the newspaper reported.

"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," Obama spokesman Ben LaBolt wrote in an e-mail.

Obama has had to balance dispelling rumors that he is a Muslim while trying not to offend Muslims.

"This is a classic example of a no-win situation, right?" Obama responded at a forum for minority journalists on July 27 when asked if he will visit a mosque as a candidate.

"I have repeatedly on various occasions said I am not a Muslim, but this whole strategy of suggesting that I am is indicative of anti-Muslim sentiment that we have to fight against."

soundoff (201 Responses)
  1. Jaime in Texas

    Obama is just going down hill. too bad.

    August 6, 2008 10:16 am at 10:16 am |
  2. anonymous

    Wake up people – NOBAMA's major contributors are middle eastern countries, China, etc. because they want that liberal a$$ in office!!!

    August 6, 2008 10:16 am at 10:16 am |
  3. Sheople yes, people not so much

    Where is the speech to refine this?

    August 6, 2008 10:16 am at 10:16 am |
  4. Bill

    Lets keep in Mind Obama was the first to compare himself to Paris Hilton in 2005.

    August 6, 2008 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  5. Dimwit

    Obama is refining his position right now....

    OH perfect man of perfect vision.

    August 6, 2008 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  6. wake up

    ok anything but the issues...another example of how Obama get more press....BAD press. yet he is still the best candidate.
    @larryh wi..great artical but i am so sorry this issue has been proven is a lie. sorry man.

    August 6, 2008 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
  7. Clinton/McCain

    This man can't be trusted! Wake up people.

    August 6, 2008 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  8. Dan

    Please, someone, explain to me why we need to have a special "outreach" to various groups? I thought we were electing a president of the "UNITED States of America. Divisive? You bet it is, and I don't like it one little bit.

    August 6, 2008 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  9. Kevin

    John Mccain cheated on his first wife after she got disfigured in a car wreck.

    August 6, 2008 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  10. Shari, NY

    People have to do what they think is right in the interest of a party they are aligned with. Now it is time to move on. Also it is time to move as regards the celebrity ad but before I throw in the towel on this topic I have to put in this last piece.

    Both Spears and Hilton have troubling issues and using them in a derogatory campaign ad against Sen. Obama is way below the belt. Sen. McCain should have tabooed this gimmick referencing two women who could be his granddaughters. If this is a hint at how a government can best provide health/psychiatric care for people who are in need (ridiculing them) – then god help us! Moral decay among both young and old seems to be the order of the day and we need someone to redeem us ASAP. I will borrow Hillary’s line by saying: “Shame on you”. Matter closed.

    August 6, 2008 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  11. Jim V

    Why do they insist on using Muslim American, what's next I'm a Catholic Mexican, Protestant American, Jew American, Born Again American, Mormon American the whole label system is crap.

    August 6, 2008 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  12. Bro for bro

    Americans who love their country WILL vote for Obama.

    Unless they want race riots in the streets of major cities.

    Is THAT what you racists want?

    August 6, 2008 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  13. Bro for bro

    Africans and African Americans will vote in large numbers and we will NOT let the redneck racists derail the Obama train.

    August 6, 2008 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  14. Power to all bros

    More racist fearmongering.

    Obama will be president.

    No derailing this Obamanation.

    Black people will rise up.

    August 6, 2008 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  15. Christopher, Madison, WI

    Poor Repukes...sour grapes to you! In case none of you morons on the right are aware of it...the Constitution clearly state "Freedom of Religion". This means all religion. History would tell us that the Christians have done more than their fair share of horrible things. Sex scandals, starting numerous wars, witch hunts, propaganda, cross dressing and the list continues. This is not one nation under Christians, it's one nation under God. It doesn't say whose God. You like theocracies, move to the middle east, they live it everyday. Please keep your religion out of my politics and the nations' government as it was intended! If you want Church and State to join we should never have left England and for that matter make all the churches pay taxes. This high school mentality of my God is better than your God is juvenile. The Evangelicals are nothing more than modern day Klan members out kill off any other religion that isn't like theirs.

    August 6, 2008 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  16. Val, Atlanta, Ga

    For all of those that continue to find fault in Sen Obama, lets for once just keep it real, you were not going to vote for a BLACK man in the first place, so its more confortable to you to try and find the negatives and put your racist attitude on that. A DOG could be running against Sen. Obama and you would rather take a chance with an animal than A Black man, knowing the bad situation our country is in you would will make yourself believe that Sen McCain has ALL of this experience, which he dosn't. You would rather put a High School Graduate to run the country rather than a College Graduate. I should have my son run for office since thats all it requires.

    August 6, 2008 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  17. Heads up honkey nation

    We are 13% of the population.

    We will have Obama as president...

    or look out.

    August 6, 2008 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  18. Obama4change

    CNN, why do you have this as a top story? Where is the story on how the McBush campaign did not allow a black reporter in to a press conference? Where is the story how McBush was was rampling at the topless beauty contest? Why isn't there a story on how McCain encouraged his wife to enter a topless beauty contest? CNN, the worst news organization in the worrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrld!!!!!!! After FOX News of course.

    August 6, 2008 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  19. tony

    More Poor Judgement-
    No surprises-
    He's not getting elected-It doesn't matter where his contributions come from-
    It's amazing that his media has not bounced on this article by Maureen Dowd but we should not be surprised-
    Thank goodness for a long campaign cycle-We learn enough to elect someone with Character-
    Fortunately for us-the Paris Hilton types are in a severe minority-
    But she even gets a vote-
    What a Country !!!

    August 6, 2008 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  20. No Christmas Gifts

    For the record, I am a Seventh Day Adventist and I am not big on exchanging Christmas Gifts either. I also know for a fact that Jehovah Witnesses dont celebrate Christmas or any other holidays. They dont even do birthdays.
    I say this to say... You dont have to be a Muslum (not that there is anything wrong with it) to no exchange Christmas gifts. Get your facts correct before you blow off steam.

    August 6, 2008 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  21. Cheryl

    Don't you think if that fake Maureen Dowd email was true it would have been picked up by the mainstream media instead just making the rounds in email?

    The Swift Boaters who fabricate these lies are a disgrace to the electoral process. Unable to win on the merits of their candidate they resort to slimey tactics that play on the worst in human nature.

    Do you think Obama supporters should send emails saying McCain likes to dress up in Nazi uniforms or is a secret alcoholic or any other ridiculous crap they could make up? Of course not! So knock off the b.s. and quit dragging this election into the gutter.

    August 6, 2008 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  22. Obama of the dubious connections

    Another demonstration of Obama's perfect judgement.... and eventual refinement.

    August 6, 2008 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  23. Laura

    Ron democrat turned independent:

    I know that Jehovah's witnesses do no celebrate Christmas and/or birthdays and they certainly are not Muslims. So in all fairness, you cannot use that analogy to Obama.

    There are plenty of other things to look at. Lack of experience, no record. Flipping and flopping on all kinds of issues (guns, energy, stragetic oil reserve, Israel). These may keep you busy for awhile!!!

    Laura, Boston, MA

    August 6, 2008 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  24. Mike, TX

    Typical. If the press ever gets around to doing its job as objective journalists, we'll hear a lot more about Hamas ties to Obama.

    August 6, 2008 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  25. Ron

    The posting dated August 6th, 2008 at 9:02 am ET by larryh wi is a fraud being circulated by fringe right wing circles. The debunking of this fraudulent article falsely attributed to NY Times columnist Maureen Dowd is here . If you'd like to read the actual column Dowd wrote for the June 29th, 2008 edition of The New York Times, you can see it here . Because the post by "larryh wi" is a complete fabrication, his entry should be removed and he should be banned from further postings on

    August 6, 2008 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
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