The Trail

Obama Muslim Coordinator Resigns

By Perry Bacon
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, August 6, 2008; 9:45 AM

Barack Obama's national Muslim outreach coordinator has resigned amid a controversy of over his connections to a man who the Justice Department named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the racketeering trial last year of several alleged Hamas fund-raisers.

Mazen Asbahi, a Chicago lawyer who had been appointed to help Obama reach out to Muslims, stepped down on Monday, the Wall Street Journal reported late last night.

The paper had inquired about his relationship with Jamal Said, who served on a board with Asbahi in 2000 that is a subsidiary of the North American Islamic Trust, which holds titles to mosques, Islamic centers, schools, and other real estate around the country. Said had been named in an investigation of alleged Hamas fund-raisers, which ended in a mistrial last year, the paper reported.

"I am stepping down from the volunteer role I recently agreed to take on with the Obama campaign as Arab-American and Muslim American coordinator in order to avoid distracting from Barack Obama's message of change," Ashabi wrote in a statement Obama's campaign staff released last night.

Obama aides said Asbahi had only worked in his volunteer position in the campaign since July 26 and they would appoint a new person to the job.

After his appointment, Ashbahi had written on the campaign's blog, "we need Muslim Americans to get excited about the Campaign, and there's a lot to get excited about."

"Sure, there have been mis-steps," he said. "And of course there are added sensitivities with our faith given the "smear" campaign trying to paint the Senator as too exotic and too un-American to be President."

Obama had apologized to two women who were barred from sitting behind the podium by campaign volunteers seeking to prevent the women's headscarves from appearing in photographs or on television with the candidate at a rally in Detroit in June.

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