Obama Campaign Taps New Arab Outreach Director

By Marc Perelman

Published August 25, 2008.

A few weeks after Barack Obama’s first Arab-American outreach person resigned amid controversy over past connections to an imam, the campaign has tapped attorney Rashida Tlaib to be its outreach director in Michigan, where Tlaib just won a state primary, the Forward has learned.

Ben LaBolt, an Obama campaign spokesman, confirmed the appointment for a state where Arab-Americans are a substantial voting block.

The appointment came days after the 30-year-old Tlaib, who is the oldest of 13 siblings from a family of Palestinian descent and the senior aide to the Michigan House majority leader, beat eight candidates in the Democratic primary to represent southwest Detroit’s 12th district in the state house.

The district, which borders the largest concentrated Arab community in the United States, is a majority-Latino neighborhood, but Tlaib beat all other candidates with 44% of the votes. Tlaib has been criticized for her affiliation with, and her work for, the Dearborn-based Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services, known as Access, where she is listed as a board member and worked as an advocacy coordinator.

Conservatives have criticized Access for hosting not only Israel divestment conferences but also such controversial Palestinian militants as Sami Al-Arian, a former Florida professor. The 35-year-old group, however, has never been indicted in courts in the United States, and last year Governor Jennifer Granholm appointed its founder, Ismael Ahmed, director of Michigan’s Department of Human Services.

Tlaib could not be reached for comment.



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