The photo was taken on a 2006 trip Sen. Obama made to Kenya. The picture first appeared on the Drudge Report website which said it was circulated by Clinton's staffers and quoted one saying: "Wouldn't we be seeing this on the cover of every magazine if it were [Clinton]?"
Addressing the issue briefly in an interview with a Texas radio station, Obama said: "I think the American people are saddened when they see these kind of politics." "Everybody knows that whether it's me or Senator Clinton or Bill Clinton that when you travel to other countries they ask you to try on traditional garb that you have been given as a gift," he said adding: "The notion that the Clinton campaign would be trying to circulate this as a negative on the same day that Senator Clinton was giving a speech about how we repair our relationships around the world is sad."
Obama campaign manager David Plouffe accused Clinton's campaign of "the most shameful, offensive fear-mongering we've seen from either party in this election."
The row comes as the rivals campaign for two crucial primaries next week. Analysts suggest Hillary Clinton needs strong victories in both Ohio and Texas to keep her White House campaign alive. But several polls suggest she is trailing Obama. The New York Times Tuesday morning reported two national polls completed Sunday that show a double-digit lead for Obama over Clinton in preference for the Democratic nomination - the Times' own, with CBS News; and one from Gallup with USA Today. Obama has won 11 consecutive primaries and caucuses in recent weeks, and is now seen as the Democratic front-runner.
The photograph, which showed Obama wearing a turban and swaddled in white fabric, was taken in 2006, when the Illinois senator was on a tour of Africa. Obviously, the photograph is intended to suggest that Obama has hidden Islamic sympathies.
It will not be too much to say that those who hatched the Muslim Obama rumors would not have bothered had it not been for a political and cultural environment in which demonizing Muslims and their faith.
The photos are an obvious intent to trigger a mental picture of Obama’s alleged Muslim roots to undermine his campaign and take votes away from his promising presidential campaign run.
Even more troubling is the fact that the mere attempt to argue that a candidate who may have any "Muslim-ness" in his family background should be automatically disqualified from the Presidency.
While religion should not be a factor in selecting a presidential candidate, distortions of faith -- which has included emails absurdly claiming Obama is a "secret Muslim" -- have become a prime example of negative campaigning.
"It is a sad day in America when a Presidential candidate is subjected to a religious test. This type of attack through religious innuendo is not only futile but un-American," said Muslim Public Affairs Council Executive Director Salam Al-Marayati. "Haven't we learned anything since the days when President Kennedy was subjected to a trial of public opinion about his religious affiliation?," he recalled.
When it comes to Muslims, the divisive rhetoric coming out of this year's elections ranges from the exclusionary to the just plain bigotry.
One of Mike Huckabee's campaign advisers, Jim Pinkerton, recently advocated putting a "cop in front of every mosque" in America "just for safekeeping." John Deady, co-chairman of the New Hampshire Veterans for Rudy Giuliani, told the British newspaper The Guardian in late December: "We need to chase [Muslims] back to their caves or, in other words, get rid of them."
The picture episode is a deplorable new low in negative campaigning during this election season and the broader issue we face is: What does this attempt to smear Obama say about our society?