June 20, 2008 / 1:37 AM / 12 years ago

Obama apologizes to Muslim women barred from seats

Democratic presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) addresses a news conference after meeting with his foreign policy advisory panel of former Democratic U.S. government officials at a hotel in Washington June 18, 2008. REUTERS/Jim Bourg

CHICAGO (Reuters) - U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama apologized on Thursday to two Muslim women who were barred from sitting behind the podium where Obama was speaking because they were wearing Islamic headscarves.

At a campaign rally in Detroit on Monday, Shimaa Abdelfadeel and Hebba Aref were prevented by volunteers from taking seats behind Obama that would have been in view of television cameras, apparently because of their headscarves.

“I reached out to Ms. Aref and Ms. Abdelfadeel this afternoon,” Obama said in a statement. “I spoke with Ms. Abdelfadeel, and expressed my deepest apologies for the incident that occurred with volunteers at the event in Detroit.”

Obama said the volunteers’ actions were “unacceptable and in no way reflect any policy of my campaign.”

“I take deepest offense to and will continue to fight against discrimination against people of any religious group or background,” he said.

Obama said Abdelfadeel had accepted his apology and he hoped that Aref would as well.

The Detroit Free Press reported that Obama had left a phone message for Aref.

Obama, who is a Christian, has faced false rumors that he is a Muslim.

His personal apology followed an earlier apology made to the women by his campaign staff.

Reporting by Caren Bohan; Editing by Doina Chiacu

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