That incident began when the volunteer asked Aref’s friend Ali Koussan and two others, Aref’s brother Sharif and another young lawyer, Brandon Edward Miller, whether they would like to sit behind the stage. The three young men said they would but mentioned they were with friends.
The men said the volunteer, a 20-something African-American woman in a green shirt, asked if their friends looked and were dressed like the young men, who were all light-skinned and wearing suits.
Miller said yes but mentioned that one of their friends was wearing a headscarf with her suit. The volunteer “explained to me that because of the political climate and what’s going on in the world and what’s going on with Muslim Americans, it’s not good for [Aref] to be seen on TV or associated with Obama,” said Koussan, a law student at Wayne State University.
Both Koussan and Miller said they specifically recalled the volunteer citing the “political climate” in telling them they couldn’t sit behind Obama.
“I was like, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me. Are you serious?’” Koussan recalled.
“This is of course not the policy of the campaign. It is offensive and counter to Obama’s commitment to bring Americans together and simply not the kind of campaign we run,” said Obama spokesman Bill Burton. “We sincerely apologize for the behavior of these volunteers.”
One of the young men from the photo above later boasted on a gay blog about how Obama campaign staffers singled he and his friends out for their prime placement behind the candidate. I thought their placement behind the candidate a little odd at the time, given the extent to which they were so prominently advertising a clothing store accused in the past of racism and sexism. Ms. Aref felt differently based on her experience. “I was coming to support him, and I felt like I was discriminated against by the very person who was supposed to be bringing this change, who I could really relate to,” said Hebba Aref, a 25-year-old lawyer who lives in the Detroit suburb of Bloomfield Hills. “The message that I thought was delivered to us was that they do not want him associated with Muslims or Muslim supporters.”