Barack Obama mused about Islam in late 2007 and stated that his having gone to school in Indonesia gives him "insight into how these folks think" that would help him "create a better relationship with the Middle East." But then, during the presidential campaign, he did his best to distance himself from Islam.
How do things look now that he is president? Already in December 2008, one Muslim preacher called on Obama to return to his roots and convert to Islam. This weblog follows the story.
The rules have changed: Thomas Lifton notes a new, positive disposition towards Obama's Islamic origins:
Now that he is elected and almost inaugurated, the rules of public discourse have changed when it comes to Barack Obama and Islam. During the campaign, you were a racist if you noticed that his middle name is Hussein. If you added that his father was a Muslim, and that Islam regards anyone born of a Muslim father as a Muslim, then you were a fear-mongering hysteric.
But tomorrow when he takes the oath of office, he has let it be known he will use his full name. He has also let it be known that he will travel to the capital of an Islamic nation to meet with leaders of Muslim nations. Suddenly, Islam is "in".
So much so that a previously unthinkable thing has happened: CNN has actually compared tomorrow's inauguration gathering to the Haj pilgrimage in Mecca! Watch this video and see for yourself.
Are we about to see a wave of celebration of Obama's Islamic heritage? Is Muslim chic in the future?
(January 19, 2009)
"Barack Hussein Obama": Jim Sleeper, an Obama acolyte, explains "Why It's 'I, Barack Hussein Obama...'," along the way side-swipping me (and, as liberals tend to do, getting wrong what I have been saying):
Even as we progress from symbolism to substance in the most stately way imaginable, I hope that everyone appreciates the symbolic and substantive rewards of Obama's being sworn in as "Barack Hussein Obama." This is the moment to explain again briefly why it matters so much.
During the campaign, neo-conservatives such as Daniel Pipes and other Obama detractors thought it smart to highlight his paternal Muslim roots and associations. But now that he's becoming president, you'd have to be as naive as a neo-con to miss the nobility and world-historical gains this country achieves as, having overthrown a bad Hussein, it installs a good one—not in Baghdad, but in Washington.
Sure, the mind reels. Hussein is a title of honor applied to metaphorical descendants of the prophet Mohammed. An American president bearing that name, even only residually, enacts what philosophers call a transvaluation of values. He gives a wicked case of cognitive dissonance to millions of people like Bill O'Reilly and Rush Limbaugh, but also to millions in the Muslim world who are not like them at all. ...
the very prospect of our Hussein's inauguration raised millions of young Muslims' democratic hopes even higher than America has raised their material and sensual ones. (And, given present economic circumstances, it's telling that just when Obama's election was about to reflect Western democracy's deepest strengths, the iconically Western Gordon Brown was begging the Saudis to aid the International Monetary Fund.)
Comment: For the record, I thought it was "smart" to highlight Obama's having lied about his birth and childhood religious affiliation. (January 20, 2009)
"Christians and Muslims": Obama's inaugural speech contained a startling formulation: "The United States is a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus and non-believers." Hugh Fitzgerald comments on it at JihadWatch.org:
The traditional formulation has always paired "Christians" with "Jews"—"Christians and Jews." Such a blatant change, then, in that traditional formulation is sure to attract notice. It invites inspection. It disturbs. The order in which these adherents of different faiths are named, and which is paired with the obviously, and rightly, dominant "Christians" (this country was both founded on Christian or, to include the Old Testament, Judeo-Christian principles, and owes its development right up to the present day to those same ideas, enshrined in our political and legal institutions which are, after all, the best thing America has to offer) both count. ...
Obama delivering his inaugural speech, Jan. 20, 2009.
on what basis did Obama make the decision to move up "Muslims" in the ranking, right after, or even possibly paired with, Christians, leaving the Jews demoted, in a sense? It cannot be on the basis of population, for there are twice as many Jews in the United States as there are Muslims. ... Was this one more attempt to impress on the public the notion that we must appease Muslims, we must make of them something they are not in this country, in order to hold onto their loyalty that otherwise is in danger of being lost?
Bishop E.W. Jackson Sr., of the Exodus Faith Ministries in Chesapeake, Virginia.
said he and others have no problem acknowledging that "this country is one in which everybody has the freedom to think what they want.'" Yet Obama crossed the line, in his view, in suggesting that all faiths (and none) were different roads to the same destination: "He made similar remarks in the campaign, and said, 'We are no longer a Christian nation, if we ever were. We are a Jewish, Hindu and non-believing nation.'" Not so, Jackson says: "Obviously, Jewish heritage is very much a part of Christianity; the Jewish Bible is part of our Bible. But Hindu, Muslim, and nonbelievers? I don't think so. We are not a Muslim nation or a non-believing nation."'
Jackson paraphrased here a statement by Obama on June 28, 2006 (at 1:04 in the recording): "Whatever we once were, we are no longer a Christian nation – at least, not just. We are also a Jewish nation, a Muslim nation, and a Buddhist nation, and a Hindu nation, and a nation of nonbelievers."
This formulation places Muslims after Jews but it strikingly refers to a "Muslim nation," a term that invokes both the Nation of Islam and the umma. Will this phrase be resurrected?
Jesus = Isa: Pastor Rick Warren of the Saddleback Church in California delivered the invocation at Obama's inauguration and included a startling allusion to the Islamic name of Jesus:
We now commit our new president ... into your loving care. I humbly ask this in the name of the one who changed my life, Yeshua, Isa, Jesus [in Spanish pronunciation], Jesus.
Comment: One wonders whether Warren was encouraged to mention Isa or did so spontaneously. (January 20, 2009)
"I have Muslim members of my family, I have lived in Muslim countries": Stated in the course of a lengthy interview to the Dubai-based Al-Arabiya television channel, this comment startles because Obama had run away from his family connections to Islam when running for office. Now, when he finds it useful for reaching out to Muslim opinion, however, he is no longer shy about calling on it. (January 26, 2009)
"America is a country of Muslims, Jews, Christians, non-believers": That same Al-Arabiya interview includes this curious variant on the earlier two formulations, cited above: "we are no longer a Christian nation – at least, not just. We are also a Jewish nation, a Muslim nation, and a Buddhist nation, and a Hindu nation, and a nation of nonbelievers."
Comment: The tally so far: four categories (Christians, Jews, Muslims, non-believers) mentioned three times, Hindus twice, and Buddhists once. Muslims twice ranked ahead of Jews, Jews once ranked ahead of Muslims. (January 26, 2009)
Jihadis apprehensive about Obama: According to the February issue of inSITE (not accessible online), newsletter of the SITE Intelligence Group, most members of jihadi forums "were pessimistic when discussing Obama and his initial address to Muslims, and many argued that his charisma made Obama an even greater danger for Muslims than George W. Bush. Posters noted that unwary Muslims could be seduced by the rhetoric of change and cease working for jihad."
This confirms what Rita Katz found in the January issue of inSITE devoted to the forthcoming U.S. presidential inauguration: "once Obama was elected, the top leaders of al-Qaeda, demonstrating an apprehension about the Obama presidency, embarked on a very harsh propaganda campaign targeting the President-elect, even resorting to personal insults." (February 1, 2009)
Provides brief religious autobiography: Obama used the occasion of the National Prayer Breakfast to tell about himself:
I was not raised in a particularly religious household. I had a father who was born a Muslim but became an atheist, grandparents who were non-practicing Methodists and Baptists, and a mother who was skeptical of organized religion, even as she was the kindest, most spiritual person I've ever known. She was the one who taught me as a child to love, and to understand, and to do unto others as I would want done. I didn't become a Christian until many years later, when I moved to the South Side of Chicago after college. It happened not because of indoctrination or a sudden revelation, but because I spent month after month working with church folks who simply wanted to help neighbors who were down on their luck – no matter what they looked like, or where they came from, or who they prayed to. It was on those streets, in those neighborhoods, that I first heard God's spirit beckon me. It was there that I felt called to a higher purpose – His purpose.
Barack Obama at the National Prayer Breakfast.
(February 5, 2009)
Quotes a Hadith: In that same National Prayer Breakfast, Obama showed the similarity of religions by quoting from a Christian, a Jewish, and an Islamic text, then mentioning other faiths:
no matter what we choose to believe, let us remember that there is no religion whose central tenet is hate. There is no God who condones taking the life of an innocent human being. This much we know. We know too that whatever our differences, there is one law that binds all great religions together. Jesus told us to "love thy neighbor as thyself." The Torah commands, "That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow." In Islam, there is a hadith that reads "None of you truly believes until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself." And the same is true for Buddhists and Hindus; for followers of Confucius and for humanists. It is, of course, the Golden Rule – the call to love one another; to understand one another; to treat with dignity and respect those with whom we share a brief moment on this Earth.
Comment: Nice try, but the parallel does not quite work, for the Hadith from an-Nawawi's collection is directed to Muslims only. (February 5, 2009)
"My Muslim President Obama": Thus does Asma Gull Hasan title an article. She goes on to explain:
I know President Obama is not Muslim, but I am tempted nevertheless to think that he is, as are most Muslims I know. In a very unscientific oral poll, ranging from family members to Muslim acquaintances, many of us feel, just as African-Americans did for the non-black but culturally leaning African-American President Bill Clinton, that we have our first American Muslim president in Barack Hussein Obama.
I know it's odd to say this. At first, I thought I was the only Muslim engaging in this folly, and I am reluctant to express it lest right-wing zealots try to use "Muslim" as a smear and cite my theory as proof of an Islamic traitor in the White House or some such nonsense. But, since Election Day, I have been part of more and more conversations with Muslims in which it was either offhandedly agreed that Obama is Muslim or enthusiastically blurted out. In commenting on our new president, "I have to support my fellow Muslim brother," would slip out of my mouth before I had a chance to think twice.
"Well, I know he's not really Muslim," I would quickly add. But if the person I was talking to was Muslim, they would say, "yes he is." They would cite his open nature and habit of reaching out to critics, reminiscent of the Prophet Muhammad's own approach, and also Obama's middle name, Hussein. Most of the Muslims I know (me included) can't seem to accept that Obama is not Muslim.
Of the few Muslims I polled who said that Obama is not Muslim, even they conceded that he had ties to Islam. These realists said that, although not an avowed and practicing Muslim, Obama's exposure to Islam at a young age (both through his father and his stint in Indonesia) has given him a Muslim sensibility. In my book, that makes you a Muslim—maybe not a card-carrying one, but part of the flock for sure. One realist Muslim ventured that Obama worships at a Unitarian Church because it represents the middle ground between Christianity and Islam, incorporating the religious beliefs of the two faiths Obama feels connected to. Unitarianism could be Obama's way of still being a Muslim. (And let's not forget that the church Obama worshiped at for so many years had a minister who reminds most Muslims of their own raving, excitable ministers. Even if Obama really is Christian, he picked the most Muslim-esque minister out of the bunch to guide him.)
The rationalistic, Western side of me knows that Obama has denied being Muslim, that his father was non-practicing, that he doesn't attend a mosque. Many Muslims simply say back, "my father's not a strict Muslim either, and I haven't been to a mosque in years." Obama even told The New York Times he could recite the adhan, the Islamic call to prayer, which the vast majority of Muslims, I would guess, do not know well enough to recite.
June 8, 2009 update: Frank Gaffney, Jr. concurs with Hasan, but from the non-Muslim vantage point. Writing under the title "America's First Muslim President," Gaffney brings up the same analogy as Hasan:
During his White House years, William Jefferson Clinton ... was dubbed by an admirer in the African-American community "America's first black president." Applying the standard of identity politics and pandering to a special interest that earned Mr. Clinton that distinction, Barack Hussein Obama would have to be considered America's first Muslim president.
This is not to say, necessarily, that Mr. Obama actually is a Muslim, any more than Mr. Clinton actually is black. After five months in office and most especially after his just-concluded visit to Saudi Arabia and Egypt, however, a stunning conclusion seems increasingly plausible: The man now happy to have his Islamic-rooted middle name prominently featured has engaged in the most consequential bait-and-switch since Hitler duped Chamberlain over Czechoslovakia at Munich.
Half-brother says "on the inside Barack Obama is a Muslim": On a business trip to Turkey, George Hussein Onyango Obama (who has only met Barack twice, once as a child in the 1980s, once two years ago), 26, told an interviewer that "He may be behaving differently due to the position he is in, but on the inside Barack Obama is Muslim." (March 18, 2009)
One in nine Americans think Obama is a Muslim: "Do you happen to know what Barack Obama's religion is?" Asked that casual sounding question in March 2008, June 2008, September 2008, and October 2008, a steady 12 percent of respondents reached by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press replied that he's Muslim. Asked the same question in March 2009, 11 percent replied he is Muslim.
A breakdown by the identity of the person replying finds that
white evangelical Protestants (19%) and Republicans (17%) are among the most likely to view Obama as a Muslim. Fewer than half in each group -- 38% of white evangelicals and 46% of Republicans—correctly identify Obama as a Christian. While relatively few Democrats (7%) say Obama is a Muslim, just 55% correctly identify his religious beliefs as Christian, down slightly from 61% last fall.
(1) The current statistic of 11 percent is much more surprising than the 12 percents from before Obama's being elected president because one would expect the public to know the basics about their chief of state.
(2) This 11 percent number suggests an enduring bedrock of reluctance to believe that Obama is a Christian, one unaffected by his being sworn into office on a Bible or any statements he makes.
(3) This in turn makes me think that the view of Obama is not based in ignorance but in disbelief, something that he will find difficult to overcome.
(4) Obama could take steps to address this on-going issue; at the same time, his campaign to "respect" Muslims and Islam could also boost the numbers of disbelievers.
(5) The topic of Obama and Islam is still in its infancy, with many developments, and probably surprising ones, yet to unfold. (April 1, 2009)
Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Obama's religion: The prime minister of Turkey opined: "I consider personally the election of Barack Hussein Obama to have very great symbolic meaning. A Muslim and a Christian name — so in his name there is a synthesis, although people from time to time want to overlook that and they do it intentionally. Barack Hussein Obama."
Comment: Erdoğan confirms my point, made many times over the past 1½ years, that "Hussein" is a Muslim name. That said, I fail to find Obama's "Christian name." (April 6, 2009)
In Ankara, Obama praises Muslims and Islam: In an address to the Turkish parliament, the American president was introduced as "Barack Hussein Obama" and went on to announce:
The United States is not, and will never be, at war with Islam. (Applause.) In fact, our partnership with the Muslim world is critical not just in rolling back the violent ideologies that people of all faiths reject, but also to strengthen opportunity for all its people.
I also want to be clear that America's relationship with the Muslim community, the Muslim world, cannot, and will not, just be based upon opposition to terrorism. We seek broader engagement based on mutual interest and mutual respect. We will listen carefully, we will bridge misunderstandings, and we will seek common ground. We will be respectful, even when we do not agree. We will convey our deep appreciation for the Islamic faith, which has done so much over the centuries to shape the world—including in my own country. The United States has been enriched by Muslim Americans. Many other Americans have Muslims in their families or have lived in a Muslim-majority country—I know, because I am one of them. (Applause.)
Comments: (1) Obama is correct that the United States "has been enriched by Muslim Americans." But he glides over the fact that the United States is also challenged by Muslim Americans. (2) The line about "Many other Americans have Muslims in their families or have lived in a Muslim-majority country—I know, because I am one of them" received much attention. Here is one take, from Helene Cooper of the New York Times:
The line was a bold one for Mr. Obama, who has been falsely described as a Muslim. The claim persists on some right-wing Web sites, which may try to interpret his remarks as proof of that view. But Mr. Obama, who spent part of his childhood in Indonesia, is calculating that the benefits of demonstrating to the Muslim world that Americans are not antagonistic toward it outweigh the potential political fallout back home. His calculus may also reflect an increased belief that he has enough political capital that he can spend some of it in pursuit of strengthening ties between Muslim nations and the West.
(April 6, 2009)
Americans approve of Obama's approach to Muslims: A Washington Post-ABC News poll conducted by telephone on March 26-29 among a national U.S. random sample of 1,000 adults included two questions concerning of Islam:
23. How important do you think it is for Obama to try to improve U.S. relations with Muslim nations - very important, somewhat important, not so important or not important at all?
----- Important ----- ----- Not important ----- NET Very Somewhat NET Not so Not at all No opinion 81 46 36 18 9 10 1
24. In trying to improve U.S. relations with Muslim nations, do you think Obama will (go too far), (not go far enough) or handle it about right?
Too far Not far enough About right No opinion 22 9 65 4
Comment: Obama starts his efforts to win over Muslim opinion with a domestic wind behind him. (April 6, 2009)
"Obama wins praise from many Muslims": According to informal polling done by Lee Keath of the Associated Press, "Arabs and Muslims have been charmed" by Obama's wooing. They call his words a "turning point," a "fresh breeze" even a "light in the darkness."
Obama's visit to Turkey this week was full of gestures calculated at showing he is a friend to Muslims. ... Even throwaway lines like a comment that he had to wrap up a town-hall meeting with Turkish students "before the call to prayer" showed he was no stranger to Muslims' way of life. To many, the town-hall format for a meeting with students in Istanbul on Tuesday sent a significant message. The sight of a U.S. president being questioned by Muslims was dramatically different from the perception many had of Obama's predecessor, George W. Bush. Bush was seen by many Arabs and Muslims as domineering and dictating U.S. policy on the Islamic world.
But the words have also raised expectations that U.S. policy will change, and that will not be as easy to effect. "I will believe him only when I see his troops leave Iraq and when I see him telling the Israelis that it's time for you to leave the Palestinian territories," said Tariq Hussein, 25, in Ramallah. "Other than that it's all a political maneuver." (April 8, 2009)
"Most big presidential issues have a Muslim angle": Jonathan Mann notes in at CNN that, after the economy, "Muslim issues dominate agenda" and lists six of them: Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Turkey, and the Palestinians.
Comment: Good point, but what about Darfur? Radical Islam? Its terrorism? Islam in Europe? (April 10, 2009)
Obama rejects Islamism for secularism? In a provocative piece, Halil M. Karaveli of the evocatively-named Central Asia-Caucasus Institute & Silk Road Studies Program, argues that "what is almost revolutionary about Obama's vision is that it reintroduces a perspective inspired by Enlightenment thinking in the Western discourse about Islam - a school of thought which had been discarded not only by Western conservatives but by 'enlightened' liberals as well."
And what is that perspective? It is Obama's abandonment of any references to "moderate Islam" and his seeming intent on rehabilitating secularism.
Addressing the Turkish parliament - with its Islamic conservative majority - Obama spoke about "secular democracy" as "the greatest monument to Atatürk's life." Obama's tributes to the secularist revolutionary were not bows dictated by diplomatic etiquette to the founding father of a host country, but politically charged interventions in the ongoing debate about secularism and Islam. Indeed, his words were near-affronts to the belief held by Islamic conservatives and liberals - the alliance which dominates Turkish public discourse - that the introduction of secularist reforms was a traumatic event. ...
Obama's rehabilitation of Atatürk failed to impress Turkish liberals and Islamic conservatives. Radical Islamists plotting in Pakistan and elsewhere, for their part, are sure to have found it profoundly provocative. A decade ago Osama bin Laden planned an attack on the Ataturk mausoleum in Ankara; in his first video message after 9/11, he referred to Atatürk's abolishment of the caliphate as the insufferable pain inflicted on Islam 80 years ago.
Comment: I am skeptical that Obama did what Karaveli ascribes to him, or that he even knows the complex game that Karaveli describes, but this is an argument to keep in mind. (April 19, 2009)
"Muslims and Christians in Kenya argue over Barack Obama's grandmother": For a 47-year-old, Obama has strikingly few peers or elders in his family. Perhaps the most important of them is his Kenyan step-grandmother, Sarah Obama, 87. So the news that Muslims accuse Christians of trying to convert her could have wider repercussions. According to Nick Meo in London's Daily Telegraph,
was reported locally to have been stopped from going to a Seventh Day Adventist Church by Muslims because they thought the church would try to convert her. "We had invited her to grace our meeting in Kisumu which was to mark the end of a three-week convention, but although she had prepared, she did not attend," Lewis Ondiek, a senior church figure, told Ecumenical News International.
Sarah Obama, 87, Barack Obama's Kenyan, Muslim step-grandmother.
It was claimed that family members stopped Mrs Obama from attending the service led by an Australian evangelist, John Jeremic, because they feared the church was trying to convert her to Islam [sic, should be "to Christianity"] but the family said she did not attend because she had a knee complication and could not go. Sheikh Mohamed Khalifa, the Council of Imams and Preachers of Kenya secretary, said: "Mama Sarah should not be forced by anybody to join Christianity since she is a Muslim. Muslims will not sit and watch one of their own being coerced by some religious leaders to convert to Christianity." ...
Tom Obuya, of the SDA, denied the claims. "This is not true, she was never to be converted, this newspaper did not report well. she was due to be with us at a ceremony at the end of a three week evangelistic conversion mission, alongside other special guests." Saidi Obama, Barack's uncle and Sarah's son, said: "this is not true, she was not to be converted. she was to attend as a VIP but in the end she did not go because she had other commitments."
(April 24, 2009)
The United States "one of the largest Muslim countries"? Obama made the amazing statement to French television today that "if you actually took the number of Muslims Americans, we'd be one of the largest Muslim countries in the world."
Comments: (1) According to one listing of Muslim populations, the United States, with about 2.5 million Muslims, ranks about 47th.
(2) Poor Dan Quayle, poor George W. Bush. Had only they been liberals, they too could get away with saying the stupidest things and few would notice. (June 1, 2009) June 2, 2009 update: For an example of uncritical coverage, see how the New York Times under-reported this sensational statement at "Obama Says U.S. Could Be Seen as a Muslim Country, Too." June 3, 2009 update: Ivan Rioufol, Le Figaro's columnist and the best in France, agrees: "je m'étonne que la presse n'ai pas corrigé l'erreur" ("I am amazed that the press has not corrected the error").
Al,so noteworthy are two other points in Obama's statement about Islam:
the United States and the West generally, we have to educate ourselves more effectively on Islam. And one of the points I want to make is, is that if you actually took the number of Muslims Americans, we'd be one of the largest Muslim countries in the world. And so there's got to be a better dialogue and a better understanding between the two peoples.
Comments: (1) The burden is on Westerners to learn about Islam, not the reverse. (2) One is either a Westerner or a Muslim - something directly contradicting Obama's point about so many Americans being Muslim. Which is it?
ABC News notes the change: Jake Tapper and Sunlen Miller note that during his presidential campaign, Obama and his staff "did everything they could to emphasize his Christianity and de-emphasize the fact that his father, Barack Obama Sr., was born Muslim. ... Since the election, however, with the threat of the rumors at least somewhat abated, the White House has been increasingly forthcoming about the president's roots. Especially when reaching out to the Muslim world." (June 2, 2009)
Major speech in Cairo: I cover the speech in a separate weblog, "Islam in Obama's Cairo Speech." (June 4, 2009)
Ramadan message: Presidential holiday messages tend to be platitudinous, but not Barack Obama's first Ramadan message, which included several elements of note:
"Ramadan is the month in which Muslims believe the Koran was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad": I.e., I am no Muslim.
"Like many people of different faiths who have known Ramadan through our communities and families, I know this to be a festive time - a time when families gather, friends host iftars, and meals are shared. But I also know that Ramadan is a time of intense devotion and reflection - a time when Muslims fast during the day and perform tarawih prayers at night, reciting and listening to the entire Koran over the course of the month": I may not be a Muslim, but I sure know Islam up close. Note in particular the reference to performing "tarawih prayers at night," an allusion to the supplemental prayers Sunnis engage in during Ramadan. This, clearly, is no amateur speaking.
"fasting is a concept shared by many faiths - including my own Christian faith": Again, I am a Christian, don't forget it.
"we are isolating violent extremists while empowering the people in places like Afghanistan and Pakistan": Ah, those "violent extremists," troublemakers of no specific identity. Never ever connect them to Islam.
"we are unyielding in our support for a two-state solution that recognizes the rights of Israelis and Palestinians to live in peace and security": Unyielding is a strange term in this context, confirms Obama's zealous views on the topic.
"at this time of renewal, I want to reiterate my commitment to a new beginning between America and Muslims around the world": I am the anti-George W. Bush. You will love me.
"We are ... moving forward in partnering with the OIC and OIC member states to eradicate polio": One wonders if Obama realizes the minefield he walked into here.
"I want to join with the 1.5 billion Muslims around the world - and your families and friends - in welcoming the beginning of Ramadan": Just as Obama earlier cited the exaggerated figure of nearly seven million U.S. Muslims, so he now uses this too-large number, both times pandering to Muslims.
Comment: In all, it's precisely the Ramadan message one would expect from this politician. (August 21, 2009)
High school conversation: Keith Kakugawa, depicted as "Ray" in Dreams from My Father, recalls a conversation with Obama in high school in his autobiographical book, A Tale of Two Brothers: The Keith Kakugawa Story, transcribed and edited by Dave Burgess:
One time, after shooting some hoops over at the University, Barry and I had gone to the library at the school. We had been talking about Malcolm X, fries and ribs, pork ribs specifically, when we got into a heated discussion about being Muslim and being involved in the Civil Right Movement. He started checking out the writings of the radical Black leaders of the '60s. I confronted him about it, since I had met many of the writers through my mother in my early days in Los Angeles. Members of the Black Panthers and other "true" radicals had passed through my life. Angela Davis, the civil rights activist from the '60s, had been one of the people who watched me while my mother was teaching Black Studies at UCLA.
"A Tale of Two Brothers" cover.
Barry and I were in the library debating the trend of some Black athletes adopting the Muslim religion and changing their names. He picked up a Malcolm X book and said he'd thought about maybe becoming a Muslim. He looked at it and headed toward the desk to check it out. I said, "Hold on, man. What you gonna do? You don't know the first thing about being a Muslim. Are you even ready to give up pork? You ready to stop eating sausage for breakfast? I doubt it. Right now, you're just a kid, like me. What are you going to do, change your name?"
To him, the idea made sense. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar had decided to become a Muslim because his ancestors, members of the Yoruba people of Africa, had been Muslims before being kidnapped and brought to America before converting to Catholicism, so the transition back must have been enticing.
Barry hit me with a bombshell that I definitely wasn't expecting: Barry's father had been Muslim.
He said, "Well, my name is Barack Hussein Obama."
We got in an argument about that right there in the library. I said, "No, it isn't." Looking back on it, I might have tried another tack; arguing with someone about their name seems a little silly in hindsight.
I asked him, "So, what do you think you're going to do? You really think you can be anything more than a radical wannabe?" I really couldn't get my head around what he'd said.
Barry pulled out his student identification card. "I don't have to do anything – I already have a Muslim name. I was named after my father, Barack Hussein Obama, Sr. You need to back up." It was the first time I'd ever realized his name wasn't Barry.
At that point, Mrs. Cross, the mother of one of our close friends, was working in the library and harshly "shushed" us. Barry waved to her, "Sorry – we'll take it outside."
We had talked in the past about Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's name change and what it had meant for him. We knew of several other athletes who either had already changed their names, or were thinking of adopting the Muslim faith and changing their names in order to "cash in" on the current trend.
(September 8, 2009)
Obama's niece has an Arabic name: His half-sister Maya Soetoro-Ng has two children with Konrad Ng, Suhaila and Savita. Suhaila (سهيلة) is an Arabic word meaning easy. (September 29, 2009)
Obama statue to be removed in Indonesia: The authorities are considering what to do with a bronze statue of "Little Barry" in Jakarta's Menteng Park just one month after it was unveiled. The statue depicts him in shorts and a T-shirt with a butterfly on his hand
Critics say the site should have been used to honour an Indonesian and 55,000 people have joined a page on social networking website Facebook calling for the statue to be removed. "We've been discussing for the past two weeks what to do with the statue... whether to take it down, move it elsewhere or retain it. We're finding the best solution," Jakarta parks agency official Dwi Bintarto said. ... Members of the "Take Down the Barack Obama Statue in Menteng Park" group on Facebook say Obama has done nothing for Indonesia. "Barack Obama has yet to make a significant contribution to the Indonesian nation. We could say Obama only ate and s (expletive) in Menteng. He spent his subsequent days living as an American," the web page says. "For the dignity of a sovereign nation, Barack Obama's monument in Menteng Park must be removed immediately."
(January 25, 2010)
"Growing Number of Americans Say Obama is a Muslim": So reports the Pew Research Center today, based on a poll conducted July 21-Aug. 5 among 3,003 respondents reached on landlines and cell phones and interviewed in English and Spanish. Numbers:
nearly one-in-five Americans (18%) now say Obama is a Muslim, up from 11% in March 2009. Only about one-third of adults (34%) say Obama is a Christian, down sharply from 48% in 2009. Fully 43% say they do not know what Obama's religion is.
Not surprisingly, political views affect this judgment:
Those who say he is a Muslim overwhelmingly disapprove of his job performance, while a majority of those who think he is a Christian approve of the job Obama is doing. Those who are unsure about Obama's religion are about evenly divided in their views of his performance.
Those who dislike Obama are most inclined to see him as a Muslim.
Obama stresses his Christian faith: Perhaps in response to the Pew poll, Obama has spoken out about his Christian faith as never before:
I'm a Christian by choice. My family didn't ... frankly, they weren't folks who went to church every week. My mother was one of the most spiritual people I knew, but she didn't raise me into church. I came to my Christian faith later in life. ... It was because the precepts of Jesus Christ spoke to me in terms of the kind of life I would want to lead. Being by brother's keepers ... treating others as they would treat me ... also understanding that Jesus Christ dying for my sins spoke to the humility we all have to have as human beings. ...
We're sinful, and we're flawed, and we make mistakes, and we achieve salvation through the grace of God. ... We can still see God in other people and do our best to help them find their own grace. So that's what I strive to do and pray to do every day. ... I think my public service is a part of that effort to express my Christian faith.
But even in this context, he still mentions Islam:
But the one thing I want to emphasize ... as president of the United States, I'm also someone who deeply believes part of the bedrock strength of this country is that it embraces people of many faiths and of no faiths. This is a country that is still predominantly Christian, but we have Jews, Muslims, Hindus, atheists, agnostics, Buddhists, and their own path to grace is one that we have to revere and respect as much as our own, and that's part of what makes our country what it is.
(September 28, 2010)
Obama skips Golden Temple in Amritsar: The Indian government promoted a visit to the Sikh spiritual center but the Obama administration turned down the suggestion. Why? Lydia Polgreen of the New York Times explains:
Temple officials said that American advance teams had gone to Amritsar, the holy city that is the site of the temple, to discuss a possible visit. But the plan appears to have foundered on the thorny question of how Mr. Obama would cover his head, as Sikh tradition requires, while visiting the temple. "To come to golden temple he needs to cover his head," said Dalmegh Singh, secretary of the committee that runs the temple. "That is our tradition." Mr. Obama, a Christian, has struggled to fend off persistent rumors that he is a Muslim.
(October 19, 2010)
Obama on Islam and violence: Replying to a Muslim student, A. Ansari, asking for his views on jihad during a visit to St Xavier's college in Bombay, Obama responded:
"The phrase jihad has a lot of meaning within Islam and is subject to a lot of different interpretations, but I will say that first Islam is one of the world's great religions. More than a billion people practise Islam and an overwhelming majority view their obligations to a religion that reaffirms peace, fairness, tolerance. I think all of us recognise that this great religion in the hands of a few extremists has been distorted by violence."
Comment: Obama says jihad has "a lot of meanings" but it has just one meaning in public life – aggressive warfare to bring new lands under Muslim control. A spiritual meaning does exist but is irrelevant to public life. This is playing with words, analogous to saying that a tank on the military battlefield can be confused with a tank of oil in one's basement. (November 7, 2010)
Major speech in Jakarta: During a somewhat sentimental speech on his return to Indonesia, Obama referred to Islam in several ways:
- He opened and closed the speech with "As-salamu alaikum," which is specifically an intra-Muslim salutation.
- "my stepfather, like most Indonesians, was raised a Muslim."
- "Indonesia is steeped in spirituality -- a place where people worship God in many different ways. Along with this rich diversity, it is also home to the world's largest Muslim population -- a truth I came to know as a boy when I heard the call to prayer across Jakarta."
- He referred to his stop in a mosque as "a Christian visiting a mosque."
(November 10, 2010)
Obama's step-grandmother wants him to convert to Islam: Sarah Omar, 88, of Kenya is in Saudi Arabia on the hajj pilgrimage along with Obama's uncle Saeed Hussein Obama and four of her grandchildren, all of them guests of King Abdullah. While there, she told Al-Watan (Jidda), "I prayed for my grandson Barack to convert to Islam." One of those grandchildren, Musa Ismail, is currently studying at Madinah Islamic University; he informed the paper that he feels spiritually at home in Saudi Arabia. (November 26, 2010)
Somali Islamist wants Obama to convert to Islam: Fuad Mohamed "Shongole" Qalaf, a leader of Al-Shabaab, which controls most of southern and central Somalia, announced: "We tell the American President Barack Obama to embrace Islam before we come to his country," seeming to imply that only Obama's conversion to Islam will preempt Somali terrorism on U.S. soil. This is no idle threat given the twenty or so young Somali-Americans who have traveled to Somalia for jihadi training. (December 27, 2010)
Mentions Muslim in the State of the Union speech: From the White House transcript:
Of course, as we speak, al Qaeda and their affiliates continue to plan attacks against us. Thanks to our intelligence and law enforcement professionals, we're disrupting plots and securing our cities and skies. And as extremists try to inspire acts of violence within our borders, we are responding with the strength of our communities, with respect for the rule of law, and with the conviction that American Muslims are a part of our American family. (Applause.)
(January 25, 2011)
Account of Obama's conversion to Christianity: Sojourners has almost six years later finally posted the transcript of Obama's address to it in June 2006:
I was not raised in a particularly religious household, as undoubtedly many in the audience were. My father, who returned to Kenya when I was just two, was born Muslim but as an adult became an atheist. My mother, whose parents were non-practicing Baptists and Methodists, was probably one of the most spiritual and kindest people I've ever known, but grew up with a healthy skepticism of organized religion herself. As a consequence, so did I. It wasn't until after college, when I went to Chicago to work as a community organizer for a group of Christian churches, that I confronted my own spiritual dilemma. ...
Obama giving the keynote address at the Sojourners/Call to Renewal "Building a Covenant for a New America" conference in Washington, D.C., on June 26, 2006.
And in time, I came to realize that something was missing as well — that without a vessel for my beliefs, without a commitment to a particular community of faith, at some level I would always remain apart, and alone. And if it weren't for the particular attributes of the historically black church, I may have accepted this fate. But as the months passed in Chicago, I found myself drawn - not just to work with the church, but to be in the church. ...
It was because of these newfound understandings that I was finally able to walk down the aisle of Trinity United Church of Christ on 95th Street in the Southside of Chicago one day and affirm my Christian faith. ... kneeling beneath that cross on the South Side, I felt that I heard God's spirit beckoning me. I submitted myself to His will, and dedicated myself to discovering His truth.
(February 21, 2012)
Burqa'ed person expelled: A person wearing a black burqa was expelled from an Obama campaign event at Virginia Commonwealth University. A video (by VCU journalism instructor Vivian Medina-Messner) indicates the woman shouted in protest while being escorted from the hall. (May 7, 2012)
Reverend Wright's account: Edward Klein interviewed Jeremiah Wright for his book, The Amateur. This from p. 40:
"After Barack and I got to know each other, it got to the point where he would just drop by my church to talk," Wright said. "And the talk gradually moved away from his community-organizing concerns—street cleaning, housing, child care, and those kinds of needs—to larger things, more personal things. Like trying to make sense of the world. Like trying to make sense out of the diverse racial and religious background from which he came. He was confused. He wanted to know who he was.
"And I told him, 'Well, you already know the Muslim piece of your background,'" Wright continued. '"You studied Islam, didn't you?' And Barack said, 'Yeah, Rev, I studied Islam. But help me understand Christianity, because I already know Islam.' And I said, 'Well, let's start from the beginning. Who do you say Jesus is? Let's boil it down to the basics.'"
"Did you convert Obama from Islam to Christianity?" I asked Wright.
"That's hard to tell," Wright replied. "I think I convinced him that it was okay for him to make a choice in terms of who he believed Jesus is. And I told him it was really okay and not a putdown of the Muslim part of his family or his Muslim friends."
(May 15, 2012)
Praises Islam in the United States: Obama issued a Ramadan message in which he states that "Ramadan reminds us that Islam is part of the fabric of our Nation, and that—from public service to business, from healthcare and science to the arts—Muslim Americans help strengthen our country and enrich our lives. (July 20, 2011)
Half of Americans do not see Obama as Christian: A national survey by Pew Research conducted June 28-July 9, 2012, among 2,973 adults, including 2,373 registered voters, finds that "17% of registered voters say that Obama is Muslim; 49% say he is Christian, while 31% say they do not know Obama's religion."
That amounts to an almost exact split between those who say he is Christian and those who do not. Pew notes that fewer respondents "say Obama is Christian – and more say he is Muslim – than did so in October 2008, near the end of the last presidential campaign. The increase since 2008 is particularly concentrated among conservative Republicans, about a third of whom (34%) describe the president as a Muslim." (July 26, 2012)
Comment: The change in Republican and especially conservative Republican attitudes bears note.
American Muslim disappointment: Writing in New America Media, Zaineb Mohammed writes that "Disillusioned by Obama, Muslim Voters Face Tough Choice." Excepts:
Four years ago, Obama enjoyed overwhelming support from Muslim voters – 89 percent of the population voted for him. There is currently no polling data indicating the percentage that intends to vote for Obama this November, but politically active community members agree that enthusiasm for his candidacy has waned. In particular, many say they are disappointed by the way Obama has shied away from addressing an apparent rise in Islamophobia spreading throughout the United States. ...
Obama, in an effort to respond to false claims by some conservative activists that he practiced Islam, has repeated on several occasions that he is not Muslim. "Instead of saying there is nothing wrong with being Muslim, he just likes to distance himself, making it like being a Muslim is a crime," said [Mohamud Yussuf, of the Seattle's Somali magazine Runta]. ...
Some Muslim Americans also believe that their needs are being ignored, while Obama makes an effort to meet the demands of other minority voters. "He has made concessions to various special interests or minority groups in the last year to win over their vote – suspending the deportation of Dream students, repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell – but I haven't seen a concession like that to the Muslim community," [noted Zahra Billoo of CAIR in San Francisco]. ...
Although Obama touted his successes in foreign policy during his speech at the DNC, some Muslim American voters have taken a more critical stance. "By and large on foreign policy I rarely meet American Muslims who are happy," said [Zahir Janmohamed, a former Congressional staffer]. ...
Political observers say the community's disappointment with both parties could lead some Muslim voters to stay home on Election Day. "I think there's no doubt that you're going to see fewer Muslim Americans coming to the polls, not giving contributions as they were in 2008," said [Suhail] Khan. "It remains to be seen how many will go to the GOP. Some may go to third party candidates." One of these voters is Billoo, who says she plans to vote for the Green Party in November because she is dissatisfied with both Republicans and Democrats.
(September 10, 2012)
Against slandering Muhammad: Speaking in the immediate aftermath of the Innocent of Muslims video that inspired riots in about 30 countries and caused the loss of about 30 lives, including four Americans working for the U.S. government in Benghazi, Libya, Barack Obama referred to this incident in a list (longer than the examples quoted here) of "the future must not belong to":
The future must not belong to those who target Coptic Christians in Egypt – it must be claimed by those in Tahrir Square who chanted "Muslims, Christians, we are one."
The future must not belong to those who bully women – it must be shaped by girls who go to school, and those who stand for a world where our daughters can live their dreams just like our sons.
The future must not belong to those corrupt few who steal a country's resources – it must be won by the students and entrepreneurs; workers and business owners who seek a broader prosperity for all people. Those are the men and women that America stands with; theirs is the vision we will support.
The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam. Yet to be credible, those who condemn that slander must also condemn the hate we see when the image of Jesus Christ is desecrated, churches are destroyed, or the Holocaust is denied. Let us condemn incitement against Sufi Muslims, and Shiite pilgrims.
Comments: (1) It's quite extraordinary for an American president to protect the prophet of Islam. (2) Taken in context, it is less extraordinary, but part of a litany of don'ts, including several pointedly about Muslims. (September 25, 2012)
Al Minar Books & Islamic Fashion sells "Michelle Obama" fragrance oil: Al Minar sells the product in five handy sizes. And while it is hardly the only outlet for this and like fragrances, it's revealing that this pious, Philadelphia-based company thinks its customers would want to evoke the First Lady. (March 12, 2013)
Al Minar Books & Islamic Fashion sells a Michelle Obama fragrance.
Obama on Christianity and Islam: There's a string of Obama quotes on the two religions – very different and revealing in both tone and substance – at Freedom Outpost. (September 28, 2013)
Muslims the most favorable U.S. religious group to Obama: By a wide margin, Muslims approve more of Barack Obama's performance as president than does any other religious community in the United States, reports Gallup.
Current views of Barack Obama by religious affiliation.
But the current approval number, 72 percent, is close to Obama's historic low among U.S. Muslims.
Historic views of Barack Obama by religious affiliation.
Comments: (1) Noteworthy that all non-Christian groups favor Obama substantially more than any Christian group. (2) As Gallup explains, "members of various religions view the president quite differently, but this may be attributable more to whether Obama's Democratic affiliation matches the political leanings of each religious group, and less to the specific policies and actions he has taken throughout his presidency." Put differently, one wonders how much the positive Muslim view results from the middle name Hussein and the Koranic lessons, how much from his general policies, and how much from policies specifically concerning Islam and Muslims. (July 11, 2014)
Sydney terrorist accused Obama of hiding his Muslim faith: Daniel Greenfield has unearthed two statements pertaining to Obama's religious affiliation by Mohammad Hassan Manteghi (aka Man Haron Monis or Sheikh Haron), the Islamist who terrorized a coffeehouse in Sydney, killing two, on Dec. 14-15.
12 June 2008
Senator Barack Obama
713 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510 USA
Dear Brother Barack Obama
I got your message. Hiding the religion for political purposes is not permitted. When a Muslim is asked about her/his religion, she/he must tell the truth. You think it is permissible by Shariah law to hide your religion to achieve some positions to be able to help Islam and to give a better service to Muslims. You are wrong, Shariah law doesn't allow you to do so, your reason for hiding your religion Islamically is not a legitimate reason. You must rely on Allah (SWT) and avoid the satanic style of politics. If Allah wants you to be the President of the United States of America, you will definitely be the president, no matter you hide your religion or not, no matter you lie to American people or you tell the truth, so it is not worth to commit a big sin just for political purposes.
You will be apostate by denying your religion, I advise you to avoid such a big sin. You must have trust in Allah, you must always remember that Allah has the absolute power to help you to become the President even if you tell the truth that you are a Muslim. Our rely must be only on Allah. You will be the President but it doesn't worth to be a President by selling out your religion, it is not worth to lose hereafter which is permanent life for this short term life. You will be the President but this is a test from Allah to show to people that Senator Barack Obama chooses the right path or the satanic tactic. I advise you to be careful to pass this test of Allah successfully. May Allah guide all of us. Ameen.
Cc: Obama for America (Campaign), P.O.Box 8102 Chicago, IL 60680 USA
Haron issued a fatwa on Obama sometime between the November 2008 election and January 2009 inauguration:
In the name of Allah the beneficent the merciful
The President-elect Barack Hussein Obama is a Murtad (apostate). Barack Hussein Obama must be treated as Murtad as long as he does not repent in public. It is an obligation upon every Muslim who is able, to treat Barack Hussein Obama according to Shariah law. Treating Barack Hussein Obama as an apostate according to Shariah law will be rewarded by Allah (swt). Muslims even for one moment must not doubt about treating Barack Hussein Obama as apostate.
Comment: Back in 2008, I expected more analyses and conclusions of this sort, but they have been very rare. (December 15, 2014)
Obama lectures Europeans how to treat their Muslim population: In an unusual bit of analysis and advice, perhaps deriving from his own Muslim childhood, Obama told a visiting David Cameron, the UK prime minister, that
Our Muslim populations, they feel themselves to be Americans. There is, you know, this incredible process of immigration and assimilation that is part of our tradition that is probably our greatest strength. There are parts of Europe in which that's not the case, and that's probably the greatest danger that Europe faces.
It's important for Europe not to simply respond with a hammer and law enforcement and military approaches to these problems, but there also has to be a recognition that the stronger the ties of a North African -- or a Frenchman of North African descent -- to French values, French republic, a sense of opportunity, that's going to be as important, if not more important, in, over time, solving this problem.
(January 16, 2015)
Obama accused Hillary Clinton of labeling him as a Muslim: In a December 2007 meeting on the tarmac of Reagan National Airport in Washington, Hillary Clinton and Obama engaged in what a conversation reported in a memoir by a former personal aide to Obama, Reggie Love: Clinton started by apologizing for some nasty remarks by Billy Shaheen, co-chair of her New Hampshire campaign. "I want you to know I had nothing to do with it." To which Obama
very respectfully told her the apology was kind, but largely meaningless, given the emails it was rumored her camp had been sending out labeling him as a Muslim. Before he could finish his sentence, she exploded on Obama. In a matter of seconds, she went from composed to furious.
Love says that her fury marked
an obvious turning point in our campaign, and we knew it. ... she was no longer the de facto Democratic candidate. Her inevitability had been questioned. ... I remember Obama telling me later that day that he knew he was going to win the nomination after that moment on the tarmac, because Clinton had unraveled, and he was still standing and keeping his cool. It was just the confidence boost he needed.
(January 29, 2015)
There are only a microscopic number of Islamists: Asked why the White House avoids the phrase "Islamic terrorists," Obama told a television interviewer that just 0.01 percent of Muslims are a problem – and they are not even recognized as Muslim:
there is an element growing out of Muslim communities in certain parts of the world that have perverted the religion, have embraced a nihilistic, violent, almost medieval interpretation of Islam, and they're doing damage in a lot of countries around the world. ... I reject a notion that somehow that creates a religious war because the overwhelming majority of Muslims reject that interpretation of Islam. They don't even recognize it as being Islam, and I think that for us to be successful in fighting this scourge, it's very important for us to align ourselves with the 99.9 percent of Muslims who are looking for the same thing we're looking for—order, peace, prosperity.
Islam has problems, but so does Christianity: Speaking at the National Prayer Breakfast, Obama touched twice on Islamic topics. First: After praising "faith inspiring people to lift up one another," he went on:
But we also see faith being twisted and distorted, used as a wedge—or, worse, sometimes used as a weapon. From a school in Pakistan to the streets of Paris, we have seen violence and terror perpetrated by those who profess to stand up for faith, their faith, professed to stand up for Islam, but, in fact, are betraying it.
We see ISIL, a brutal, vicious death cult that, in the name of religion, carries out unspeakable acts of barbarism - terrorizing religious minorities like the Yezidis, subjecting women to rape as a weapon of war, and claiming the mantle of religious authority for such actions.
We see sectarian war in Syria, the murder of Muslims and Christians in Nigeria, religious war in the Central African Republic, a rising tide of anti-Semitism and hate crimes in Europe, so often perpetrated in the name of religion.
So how do we, as people of faith, reconcile these realities—the profound good, the strength, the tenacity, the compassion and love that can flow from all of our faiths, operating alongside those who seek to hijack religious for their own murderous ends? Humanity has been grappling with these questions throughout human history.
And lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ. In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ.
Michelle and I returned from India—an incredible, beautiful country, full of magnificent diversity—but a place where, in past years, religious faiths of all types have, on occasion, been targeted by other peoples of faith, simply due to their heritage and their beliefs—acts of intolerance that would have shocked Gandhiji, the person who helped to liberate that nation.
So this is not unique to one group or one religion. There is a tendency in us, a sinful tendency that can pervert and distort our faith.
Comments: (1) Raymond Ibrahim shows the error of the comparison with Christianity at "Obama: Christianity No Different Than the Islamic State." In brief, violence is endemic to Islam in a way it's not to Christianity and why bring up events of nearly a thousand years ago? (2) Notable that Obama did not drag Jews into this negative litany. (3) While Obama claims that ISIS (aka ISIL) is "not Islamic," at least he acknowledges that its and other Islamist acts of violence are done "in the name of religion." Well, that's a start. (February 5, 2015)
Speaks out for an imprisoned Muslim convert to Christianity in Iran: Again, at the National Prayer Breakfast, Obama said:
the freedom of religion is a value we will continue to protect here at home and stand up for around the world, and is one that we guard vigilantly here in the United States. ...
Last year, we prayed together for Pastor Saeed Abedini, detained in Iran since 2012. And I was recently in Boise, Idaho, and had the opportunity to meet with Pastor Abedini's beautiful wife and wonderful children and to convey to them that our country has not forgotten brother Saeed and that we're doing everything we can to bring him home. (Applause.) And then, I received an extraordinary letter from Pastor Abedini. And in it, he describes his captivity, and expressed his gratitude for my visit with his family, and thanked us all for standing in solidarity with him during his captivity.
And Pastor Abedini wrote, "Nothing is more valuable to the Body of Christ than to see how the Lord is in control, and moves ahead of countries and leadership through united prayer." And he closed his letter by describing himself as "prisoner for Christ, who is proud to be part of this great nation of the United States of America that cares for religious freedom around the world." (Applause.)
We're going to keep up this work—for Pastor Abedini and all those around the world who are unjustly held or persecuted because of their faith.
Comment: This unusual statement contradicts two Obama strategies: praise Muslims and make nice with Iran. It can be explained, however: for reasons I cannot satisfactorily explain, Western leftists take particular umbrage at the Islamic prohibition against apostasy. The UK's Prince Charles offers one notable example of this; the leftist reaction to Khomeini declaring that Rushdie should be killed because an apostate was another. (February 5, 2015)
Leading Republican agonistic about Obama's religion: Scott Walker, governor of Wisconsin and a likely Republican presidential contender, pleaded ignorance when asked if Barack Obama is a Christian: "I don't know," he replied to the question. Reminded that Obama frequently refers in public about his Christian faith, Walker added: "I've actually never talked about it or I haven't read about that. I've never asked him that. You've asked me to make statements about people that I haven't had a conversation with about that. How [could] I say if I know either of you are a Christian?" (February 21, 2015)
Many Americans wonder about Obama's religion: (1) Jeff Jacoby of the Boston Globe puts Walker's statement in context (a substantial portion of the American electorate is confused about Obama's religion) and justifies it ("It is to Walker's credit that he wouldn't venture a judgment on something he doesn't know enough about").
(2) Alex Theodoridis, assistant professor of Political Science at the University of California, Merced, reports on survey research he did in Oct.-Nov. 2012, when he asked the question "Which of these do you think most likely describes what Obama believes deep down? Muslim, Christian, atheist, spiritual, or I don't know."
Theodoridis notes that the percentage who opted for "Muslim" is much higher than in other polls and points to his phrasing, "what Obama believes deep down." By asking this, he "was intentionally granting respondents license to stray from the president's self-reported Christian faith."
In terms of party affiliation, 54 percent of Republicans, 26 percent of Independents, and 10 percent of Democrats opted for the Muslim reply. The "I don't know got" 29 percent of Republicans, 47 percent of Independents, and 26 percent of Democrats.
Adding these two together, 83 percent of Republicans, 73 percent of Independents, and 36 percent of Democrats chose either "Muslim" or "I don't know." In all, 60 percent of respondents chose either "Muslim" or "I don't know." In contrast, "Christian" got only 9 percent of Republicans, 16 percent of Independents, and 45 percent of Democrats.
Comment: This result offers a devastating commentary on Obama's credibility. (February 25, 2015)
Obama's father was a Shi'ite: Muhi ad-Din Lazikani, a Syrian writer explained Obama's friendliness to the Islamic Republic of Iran on Hiwar TV:
There is one thing we must not forget. I am not peddling some theory, and I am not being racist, but Barack Hussein Obama is the son of a Shiite Kenyan father. He spent much of his childhood in Mombasa, south Kenya. I visited this very area, and I can tell you that it is mostly Shiite. ... All the childhood memories of the man who rules the White House are Shiite memories. This is why the Iranian issue is so important to him, and why he is so anxious for Iran to emerge victorious, and for Syria and all the countries of the Arab Gulf to be shattered.
Comment: Of course, Obama spent none of his childhood in Kenya. (March 25, 2015)
More on Obama's father being a Shi'ite: Abu Muntasir Al-Baloushi peddled a theory on 4Shbab TV but went further, fantasizing about Obama wanting to destroy Islam by supporting Shi'ism.
Barack Hussein Obama is the son of a Shiite father. Barrack Hussein Obama is the son of a Shiite father. There is no doubt that he is Iran's lifesaver. Some people call him the Iranian lobby in America. He suffers from a peculiar complex. He believes that "Wherever we go, the Sunnis are fighting us." So what is the historical solution? Shiite expansion is ready. So he imposed this Shiite expansion on Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Iran, and Afghanistan.
Any wise enemy of Islam realizes that Shiite expansion is the best method to destroy Islam from within. Even America did not do what the Shiites have done in Iraq. Even the Zionist Jews did not do such things to the Palestinians. The [Americans] believe that they can fight the Sunnis – they call it terrorism, but this is not what they care about. They want to destroy the entire ideology. Shiite expansion is the best method to achieve this, and the Shiites are ready, because they have an ideology to that effect, they have the scholars, they have got it all... So America has used them. If I were in America's place, I would used them too.
(April 10, 2015)
Both Christian and Muslim: Daniel Greenfield writes that Obama "has gone back and forth between Christianity and Islam like a philanderer in a bar." (June 5, 2015)
Muslims need to fight ISIS: In an address at the Pentagon, Obama detailed his vision to fight ISIS (aka ISIL).
the United States will continue to do our part, by working with partners to counter ISIL's hateful propaganda, especially online. We'll constantly reaffirm through words and deeds that we will never be at war with Islam. We're fighting terrorists who distort Islam and whose victims are mostly Muslims. But around the world, we're also going to insist on partnering with Muslim communities as they seek security, prosperity and the dignity that they deserve. And we're going to expect those communities to step up in terms of pushing back as hard as they can, in conjunction with other people of goodwill, against these hateful ideologies in order to discredit them more effectively, particularly when it comes to what we're teaching young people.
And this larger battle for hearts and minds is going to be a generational struggle. It's ultimately not going to be won or lost by the United States alone. It will be decided by the countries and the communities that terrorists like ISIL target. It's going to be up to Muslim communities, including scholars and clerics, to keep rejecting warped interpretations of Islam, and to protect their sons and daughters from recruitment. It will be up to all people—leaders and citizens—to reject the sectarianism that so often fuels the resentments and conflicts upon which terrorists are currently thriving. It will be up to governments to address the political and economic grievances that terrorists exploit.
(July 6, 2015)
Republicans see Obama as a Muslim: Public Policy Polling finds in a national survey that 54 percent of Republicans think President Obama is a Muslim. That number rises to 66 percent among Donald Trump's supporters. The candidates with the fewest supporters who think Obama is a Muslim are John Kasich and Jeb Bush at 22 percent each. (September 1, 2015)
A majority of Republicans think Obama remains a Muslim.
Middle Easterners see Obama as a Shiite: Adam Taylor of the Washington Post writes about the widespread view in the Middle East that Obama isn't just a Muslim, but a Shiite Muslim. He focuses on tweets by Dhahi Khalfan Tamim, head of general security for Dubai, who has argued that Obama's "Shiite roots" helped him get elected and explain his effort to get closer to Tehran. "Mission accomplished," he added.
In follow-up tweets, Tamim suggested that Israel was actually behind the election of Obama and that the U.S. president would probably visit a number of Shiite religious sites in Iran soon. It's worth noting that Tamim isn't an obscure figure. He is a former police chief of Dubai. His Twitter account has more than 1.2 million followers, and his tweets about Obama were retweeted hundreds of times.
أوباما الذي يعود لأصول شيعية انتخب لتقريب وجهات النظر بين إيران وأمريكا لإيقاف برنامج إيران النووي العسكري.نجحت الخطة .— ضاحي خلفان تميم (@Dhahi_Khalfan) January 19, 2016
Taylor cites other advocates of this theory:
Last year, a video featuring former Iraqi member of parliament Taha al-Lahibi appeared online and showed Lahibi reasoning that Obama's "Shiite background" had led him to work with Iran. Around the same time, Syrian writer Muhydin Lazikani told the London-based al-Hiwar television channel that Obama was the "son of a Shiite Kenyan father." The rumor goes back as far as the 2008 election, when state-run Iranian papers published articles that suggested Obama was a Shiite Muslim. There were even celebrations in Iraq's Shiite strongholds when he won the election in November 2008. "Many people felt, Now we have a brother in the White House," one resident of Sadr City, a Shiite enclave in Baghdad, told Time magazine shortly after.
(January 21, 2016)