In late 2007, I raised the question of how Muslims would respond to Barack Obama, a born Muslim, were he elected president of the United States.During the U.S. presidential campaign, Muslims knew they liked Barack Obama but puzzled over his present religious status. As I put it in August 2008: "They resist his self-identification as a Christian while they assume a baby born to a Muslim father and named 'Hussein' began life a Muslim." Indeed, the Iranian leadership indicated a preference for Obama, while Ahmed Yousef, a Hamas operative, actually endorsed him: "We like Mr. Obama, and we hope that he will win the elections."
Well, they got their way. This weblog entry reviews some prominent and interesting voices on this topic.
The honeymoon will soon end: Nibras Kazimi writes in "The Middle East Will Come to Hate Obama" about Middle East fascination with Obama:
Arab and Muslim fascination with Obama rests on the idea that he is their Trojan horse into the highest office in America, the gleeful whispers describe him at times to be a secret Muslim, and in another light, an 'anti-imperialist' leftist.
Kazimi also predicts that enemies of the United States will work to discredit the new U.S. president:
Obama will be pitched as a proselytizing Christian infiltrator into the land of Islam, rather than a secret Muslim in the White House. Obama the apostate had turned his back on his Islamic birthright and early childhood for the opportunism afforded by Christianity, and that is America's grand plan for fixing the Middle East: turning it Christian—or so goes the conspiracy theory. … It is only a matter of time before Obama's biography, once thought to be the harbinger of international goodwill, will be distorted into yet another reason to hate America.
(November 6, 2008)
See him as an apostate: Now that the election is over, the MSM can gingerly take up the issue of what Obama's Muslim origins might mean for U.S. foreign policy. In "Obama to face a third war -- against stateless extremist networks: 'Al Qaeda could try to test Obama,' an Italian intelligence official says. But other groups and scattered cells also pose a threat. Any attacks probably would be against U.S. targets abroad," the talented Sebastian Rotella paraphrases Louis Caprioli, former counter-terrorism chief of France's intelligence agency DST to the effect that Islamists "may see the president-elect, a Christian, as an apostate because he did not adopt his African family's Muslim faith." But then Caprioli immediately backtracks on this insight, saying that "They will judge him on his policies, not on his identity." (November 9, 2008)
Divided opinions: I review the surprisingly mixed immediate responses to the U.S. presidential election at "Obama Wins, Muslims Divided."
Obama a descendant of Muhammad: A Pakistani publication, The Islamic Post published an editorial, "'The True Leader Presides': The Heritage of a New President, Syed Barack Hussein Obama," that (as the title implies) sees Obama as a sayyid or descendant of the Muslim prophet, Muhammad. It does so based on "extensive research" done by the Pakistani newspaper Nawai-e Waqt, which found that Obama,
though a Christian, enjoys the highest rank in Islam, one not attainable even through his extensive community activism and multiculturalism. The daily publication established Kenyan Syed Barack Hussein Obama, Sr., the now deceased father of the President-elect of the United States, to be, by birthright, in the ranks of the descendants of the Holy Last Messenger Muhammad –may Allah's peace be upon him and his family for eternal times. …
Being the son of a Syed, the President-elect himself is Syed. Syed Barack Hussein Obama, will do well to remember this, as his greatest honor in order to continue to make his mark in the tradition of those who, whether they are following Islam as good Muslims, or even adhering to the Ten Commandments as good Christians, are known by the characteristics of generosity, chivalry, and patience.
(December 1, 2008)
Calls him an apostate and a "house slave": In Al-Qaeda's first response to Obama's electoral victory, its chief ideologue, Ayman al-Zawahiri, today released a message accusing Obama of betraying Muslims. "You were born to a Muslim father, but you chose to stand in the ranks of the enemies of the Muslims, and pray the prayer of the Jews, although you claim to be Christian, in order to climb the rungs of leadership in America." In addition, Zawahiri described Obama as "the direct opposite of honorable black Americans" like Malcolm X and called him, Colin Powell, and Condoleezza Rice 'abid al-bayt," which literally means "slaves of the house" but which Al-Qaeda's English translation rendered as "house negroes." (November 19, 2008)
See him as a Shi'ite: Ridha Mohammed, a Shi'ite engineer trained at Baghdad University learned that the reporter he is speaking to is American and lowered his voice: "I will tell you a secret that the Americans don't know. Their next President is a Shi'ite." Bobby Ghosh of Time magazine reports that "conspiracy theorists across the Middle East have embraced the idea [of Obama being a covert Muslim] with the same fervor they bring to other bizarre notions." Another Iraqi, named Mohammed, says that "When Obama won, it was a big day in [the Shi'ite section of Baghdad called] Sadr City. Many people felt, 'Now we have a brother in the White House'."
Ghosh ascribes the notion of Obama as a Shi'ite traced to the Iranian government.
In the run-up to the U.S. presidential election, state-run papers published articles claiming that the Democratic nominee's paternal ancestors had hailed from southwestern Iran. In reality, of course, Obama's father and his ancestors came from Kenya, where Shi'a Islam is rare. Most Kenyan Muslims are Sunnis and leaven their faith with pre-Islamic African traditions and beliefs. Obama himself has said he has no idea if his paternal grandfather (who converted from Christianity) was Sunni or Shi'ite.
(December 2, 2008)
Hassan Abu Al-Ashbal, an Egyptian Islamist, offers Obama three choices.
Hassan Abu Al-Ashbal, an Egyptian Islamist, offers Obama three choices.
Speaking on Al-Nas television on November 27 (as recorded and transcribed by MEMRI), Abu Al-Ashbal starts by comparing Obama to "the Byzantine leaders in the days of Prophet Muhammad," implying that he is a non-Muslim leader whose country will eventually give way to Islamic rule.
(1) Abu Al-Ashbal then gets to the heart of his message, calling on the presumptive president-elect to convert to Islam. Referring to Obama in the third person, he announces:
I invite him to convert to Islam. This is the call of the Prophet and of Allah. Oh Obama - convert to Islam, and you will be saved.
Such an appeal is standard enough rhetoric, though not usually directed to American politicians.
I hope that Allah will reward you twice: once for converting to Islam, and another reward for all those who will convert in your footsteps.
Here, Abu Al-Ashbal recognizes what a big catch Obama would be – his example would cause many others to emulate him and convert.
Things get really interesting when Abu Al-Ashbal next addresses Obama as a person of Muslim origins:
You, Obama, are among those who have pledged before Allah - Allah who created you, sustained you, and brought you to this position - to be a Muslim who believes that Allah is the one God, especially since you have some kind of roots in Islam.
"Some kind of roots in Islam" rather neatly sums up the prevailing state of confusion. Everyone knows there is a connection, most are unsure what exactly it is.
(2) Abu Al-Ashbal offers Obama an alternative route:
If you refuse to return to your [Islamic] origins, to the way Allah created you, withdraw your huge armies and military bases from the lands of the Muslims.
Okay, don't convert, Abu Al-Ashbal says, but at least do what we Islamists want you to do.
(3) Resist this demand, however, and you will pay:
If you refuse, Obama, and insist on remaining in Muslim lands, know that Allah still plants in [Muslims] obedience to Him, and that they are willing to wait for Paradise, which is closer than their own shoelaces. Know, Obama, that in the lands of Islam, there are people who seek death, and are eager for it, even more than you and your people are eager for life.
Such threats are commonplace among Islamists, and would be directed to McCain no less than to Obama. But I expect they carry more urgency and weight because of the latter's "roots in Islam." (December 4, 2008)
Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood dubious of Obama: On learning that Barack Obama plans to deliver a speech on June 4 from Egypt to the Muslim world, the deputy leader of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, Mohamed Habib, portrayed this one step of a plan to divide Arab and Muslim states and further the pro-Israeli agenda. (Other steps include overtures to the Syrian and Iranian government and visits by ranking U.S. officials to Egypt and Saudi Arabia.) "The U.S. administration is trying to use each of these countries individually to serve the American agenda and American interests, in addition to securing, promoting, protecting and guaranteeing the superiority of the Zionist entity. … The statements are rosy, but politics is not built on statements as much as it's based on practices on the ground. Let's wait and see." (May 9, 2009)
American Muslims getting impatient: According to "civic groups and experts," writes Michelle Boorstein on the Washington Post website, American Muslims "want to see results, both in terms of issues Muslim-Americans care about (domestically and overseas) but also giving them more access to the White House." Amusingly, they are seeking in some instances what they already had in the George W. Bush administration, such as a Muslim staffer in the White House liaison office or a high-ranking official attend the Islamic Society of North America's annual conference. (May 19, 2009)
"Arabs like Obama but are still suspicious of U.S.": So reports Natasha Mozgovaya in Ha'aretz, reporting on a of Maryland/Zogby International poll conducted with 4,000 respondents in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, and Morocco. The survey "showed that 45 percent of the Arabs surveyed view Obama positively. If Egypt is removed from the survey - Egypt's population is larger and more neutral than other countries - Obama's positive rating soars to 60 percent." In contrast, "A majority - 77 percent - of Arabs said they have a 'somewhat unfavorable' or 'very unfavorable' attitude toward the United States, down from 83 percent last year. It ranks second only to Israel as the country Arabs view as the world's biggest threat." (May 24, 2009)
Iraqi Islamist insults Obama: Abu 'Omar Al-Baghdadi, commander of the "Islamic State of Iraq," says of Barack Obama:
The war of the Crusader camp is currently being led by a black slave, an apostate from Islam. Praise Allah, [the Christians] could not find anyone to lead them, so they borrowed an apostate slave – in order to become [truly] deserving of Allah's wrath, his revenge and his quick punishment."
(June 1, 2009)
Hamas claims American fear of jihad made Obama president: Malkah Fleisher reports today for Arutz Sheva that on June 25 Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal said that Barack Obama became U.S. president due to Americans watching the jihadi efforts of Palestinians, Lebanese, Iraqis and Afghanis, prompting them to vote for Obama to "protect their own interests." (June 30, 2009)
Hizbullah guide pans Obama: Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, 73, Hizbullah's long-time spiritual guide, says that Obama's outreach to Muslims has not changed the basics and that he perceives the policies of George W. Bush re-emerging.
The U.S. administration is gradually regaining its previous image under the Bush administration by dealing with Iran's nuclear issue in a way that ensures permanent support for the Israeli entity, which pays no heed to all international laws, particularly those related to the acquisition of nuclear weapons. … We tell the Americans who come to occupied Jerusalem to reassure the (Israeli) enemy ... that within a limited period of time you have almost foiled all the objectives which your president tried to achieve in his calculated speeches to the Arab and Muslim worlds.
(July 31, 2009)
'Atiyya Muhammad Sa'id, a Sudanese 'alim.
Obama an apostate, must be executed, says Sudanese sheikh: Addressing a pro-Osama bin Laden rally, Sheikh 'Atiyya Muhammad Sa'id said
By God, the state of Islam will be established upon the land, whether the infidels like it or not, whether the Jews like it or not, whether that apostate - what's his name – the one from America – Obama [likes it or not]! Obama is a Muslim who has left the fold of Islam. Hence, Allah, the angels, and all the people curse him. He is a real apostate. Obama is an apostate. Obama is an apostate. He left the fold of Islam.
To which the crowd roared back four times, "The apostate must be executed." (May 9, 2011)
The Ansar al-Mujahidin Network logo in Arabic.
The Ansar al-Mujahidin Network logo in Arabic.