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Barack Obama - Muslim, or Not?

By Julie Sergel

Barack Obama (D-IL)Barack Obama was born on August 4, 1961 in Honolulu, Hawaii, to a Christian mother from Kansas and a Muslim father from Kenya, although neither parent was religious--his father, a proclaimed atheist. Despite the fact that the Illinois Senator running for the United States Presidency has been a member of the United Church of Christ for over two decades, Barack Hussein Obama’s religious affiliation tends to remain a ball of confusion.

Digging up Obama’s spiritual roots has caused some to meander far and wide. Stories have circulated suggesting that Obama is tied to some type of Muslim conspiracy or infiltration process and that he refuses to recite the Pledge of Allegiance--or should he utter the pledge, he does so without holding his hand to his heart. (This theory is based on interpretation of a photo during such an occurrence.) Other rumors suggest that if he were elected, taking oath of office would utilize the Koran verses a Bible, similar to when he was sworn into the Senate. (Not true.) And, there’s the theory that he’s a “racist” Christian and his church accepts only black parishioners with a tight commitment to Africa. Most recently, a photo’s surfaced showing Obama dressing in Muslim garb.

One poll last August revealed that most voters don’t know what Obama’s faith is and of the minute percentage who did, seven percent thought he was Muslim and six percent claimed he was a Protestant Christian.

Soon after Barack was born, his parents divorced and his mother remarried, with the family moving to Indonesia. Obama’s stepfather, like his father, was Muslim and reportedly did attend mosque services on occasion. The degree of Islamic influence during Barack’s formative years (ages six to ten) while in Indonesia has generated a few plots. Some have suggested Obama was trained in Islam and attended a Muslim seminary, or more extreme “Wahabi Madrassa” school as a young boy in Jakarta. However, it’s been since revealed that the education he received was from Catholic and public schooling although his enrollment status of “Muslim” has been down played or denied altogether by campaigners for the candidate--paperwork is erroneous and the title is most probably based on his father’s religious status. Either way, religious education during those school years would allot Obama a couple of hours per week studying Islam of some sort.

In February 2008 the Associated Press was swift to adjust a release pertaining to Obama’s faith credentials, amending the latter segment of this statement: “Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama said Sunday he does not think voters have a litmus test on religion, whether evangelical Christianity or his childhood years in the Muslim faith.” to “…his childhood years in a largely Muslim country.” To solidify the point, campaigners added “To be clear, Senator Obama has never been a Muslim, was not raised a Muslim, and is a committed Christian who attends the United Church of Christ in Chicago. Furthermore, the Indonesian school Obama attended in Jakarta is a public school that is not and never has been a Madrassa.” Some have linked this misunderstanding to the Clinton camp, although they have denied any such connection.

Obama’s official campaign website offers a fact check page where gray matter is offered more legitimate fodder. Newsweek, Time, CNN, PBS and The Los Angeles Times, amongst others, redeem smears as statements are put back into context: Barack Obama is a Christian and has been a member of Chicago’s Trinity United Church of Christ for the past 20 years. Obama’s stepfather viewed religion as “not particularly useful,” but followed “a brand of Islam that could make room for the remnants of more ancient animist and Hindu faiths.” In January 2005, he was sworn into the US Senate with his own personal family Bible. He is an aggressive advocate for veteran’s rights, and as his grandfather taught him to say the Pledge of Allegiance, he regularly leads his fellow senators in the recital of it.

Letters from prominent Jewish leaders and Jewish U.S. senators are posted on the Obama site explaining a refusal to tolerate such falsities as were being received within the Jewish community in the form of hateful emails. Rabbi Marvin Hier is quoted on a heading of collaborative rabbis dated January 2008, as saying, “Candidates for our nation’s highest office must be prepared for debate and challenges to their public record. However, we must have zero tolerance for the slightest traces of bigotry and hatred in our Nation’s political discourse.”  A list of seven Jewish senators who signed an “Open Letter to the Jewish Community” not endorsing a candidate but condemning “scurrilous attacks” is posted explaining, “Jews, who have historically been the target of such attacks, should be the first to reject theses tactics.”

The Muslim Observer is highlighted as posting a similar response in statement of a retraction to a fraudulent email that was supposedly written by Senator Barack Obama on the topic of Islam. Although details of the content are not posted, the news source expressed that it was “deeply embarrassed” by what happened as the letter had been widely circulated within the Muslim community and later found out, penned by someone else.

In discerning whether the democratic candidate for president is Muslim or not, CNN reports Obama himself in Dubuque, Iowa, as saying, “If I were a Muslim, I would let you know. But I’m a member of Trinity United Church of Christ on 95th Street on the South Side of Chicago. We’ve got the best choir in town, and if you want to come and worship with us, you are more than welcome.” During various public speeches it is noted that Obama refers to his experiences in Southeast Asia and views them as valuable perspectives in dealing with foreign relations. There is no discounting the fact that he was not isolated from Muslim experiences, but the consensus seems to be he is committed elsewhere. As top Obama strategist David Axelrod put it, “He genuinely believes…that people want to have a president that the world looks at and says, ‘I believe this guy has an understanding of us and how we fit together on the planet.’”

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