Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Obama's Muslim Liaison

The newly formed position of Muslim Liaison on presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Senator Obama's campaign has been filled by Mazen Asbahi. As the National Coordinator for Muslim Affairs, Asbahi will head the campaign's outreach efforts to American Muslims and Arab Americans. Asbahi is a corporate lawyer in Chicago and will be based at the campaign headquarters here.

Amidst concerns that Senator Obama has been distancing himself from the American Muslim community and his mishandling of the claims that tie him to Islam, this is a positive step in reflecting the true inclusive values that the Senator espouses. While likely also a political ploy, it is still comforting to know that the campaign is making a solid effort to engage the American Muslim community, reaching out to a diverse nation of voters.

The Muslims Public Affairs Council summed up the importance of the step: "The inclusion of a Muslim American voice in the presidential campaign reinforces the principle of pluralism in the electoral process. MPAC is confident that Mr. Asbahi will encourage Muslim Americans to be civically engaged. MPAC encourages the presumptive Republican nominee, Senator John McCain, to form a similar Muslim outreach program or appoint a liaison to the Muslim American community." Should Senator McCain reach out to American Muslims in a similar matter, we can truly say that our nation's leaders are engaging and valuing the diversity, the greatest asset in this country.

I can only hope, however, that the Mr. Asbahi will serve as a true liaison between the American Muslim community and Senator Obama, rather than being a substitute for him to appease American Muslims. The position should not replace the engagement and relationship that is necessary between our leaders and the citizens, but rather work to make the link stronger.

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