Washington, June 20 : Democrat presidential candidate Barack Obama has personally apologised to two Muslim after they were barred from sitting behind him at a public event because of their Islamic headscarves.
Obama telephoned the women on Thursday after Muslim leaders urged the Democrat to personally apologize to them. Dawud Walid, head of the Michigan branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said the Democratic presidential hopeful spoke by phone with Shimaa Abdelfadeel and apologized to her. Walid also said that Obama left a voicemail for the other woman, Hebba Aref. The two Muslim women had requested Obama to apologise directly to them, as well as invitations to sit behind him at a future campaign event after they were barred from sitting behind him at a public event.
The two women in headscarves were asked not to sit in view of cameras at a rally in Detroit on Monday, where Al Gore endorsed Obama. The Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) had also called for a personal apology from Obama to help redress the grievance and also combat growing anti-Islamic sentiment in the United States.
Obama's presidential campaign had apologised on Wednesday for refusing to seat two Muslim women wearing traditional headscarves behind the candidate and in clear view of TV cameras during a rally.
The women were reportedly told they couldn't sit in the high-profile location because of "a sensitive political climate." The Illinois senator has been dogged for more than a year by false Internet-fuelled rumours that he's Muslim.
Obama spokesman Bill Burton released a statement saying campaign volunteers' decision to bar the women from the seating area behind the lectern is "not the policy of the campaign."
Hebba Aref, a 25-year-old lawyer, said she replied by thanking Burton, but requested Obama apologise directly to her and Abdelfadeel, as well as invitations to sit behind him at a future campaign event. Aref said that she and Shimaa Abdelfadeel were among 20,000 supporters who gathered to see Obama on Monday at the Joe Louis Arena when the groups they were with were separately invited by Obama campaign workers to sit behind the podium.