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Obama and the Veiled Women: A Quiet Discussion - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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The controversial campaign story of the week involves two Muslim women wearing headscarves who were not allowed to sit within photograph range of Barack Obama at a rally in Detroit.

Yet again, the connection between Obama and Islam is causing fear. The women were prevented from sitting near Obama as many regard the current political climate unsympathetic of having the presidential hopeful in the same photograph as veiled women.

Although Obama issued an official apology to the women, the controversy persisted, concerning the degree of importance that Obama’s campaign attributes to his political image, especially following claims associating him with a Muslim identity which highlight occasions from his adornment of traditional Islamic dress during an official visit to Kenya in 2006 to details of his childhood in Indonesia.

Once again, Obama has slipped up. He broke his promise of changing the prevailing stereotypical image of American politics today.

Nevertheless, the error has undoubtedly been exploited by several adversaries of the US, who pounce on such mistakes to declare judgments and generalizations. We must not drift toward similar meaningless generalizations, such as considering entire groups to be immoral conspirators. Let us not forget that many of our own leaders practice similar “preventive” methods when among Jewish or Israeli figures.

Without justifying the headscarf incident, it is a great reality that a black man with Muslim roots is a strong candidate for US president. The rise of such a minority can only take place in the US and the West, and not in the banana republics we live in.

We continue to curse Western states while our own exacerbating our own racist and sectarian illnesses, which wound the black Africans we constantly pretend to weep over.

Obama may or may not rise to the American presidency. What continues to be important, however, is that pluralistic societies alone can deliver models of minorities rising to power, not canned by catchy phrases of justice.

While it is true that the Obama campaign was uneasy about the photograph with the veiled women, Obama was held accountable for the incident and his apology is not a mere passing detail.

There are concrete signs that Obama will implement essential changes and we hope similar changes can take place in our own states.

Diana Moukalled

Diana Moukalled

Diana Moukalled is a prominent and well-respected TV journalist in the Arab world thanks to her phenomenal show Bil Ayn Al-Mojarada (By The Naked Eye), a series of documentaries on controversial areas and topics which airs on Lebanon's leading local and satelite channel, Future Television. Diana also is a veteran war correspondent, having covered both the wars in Iraq and in Afghanistan, as well as the Israeli "Grapes of Wrath" massacre in southern Lebanon. Ms. Moukalled has gained worldwide recognition and was named one of the most influential women in a special feature that ran in Time Magazine in 2004.

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