Neil Armstrong, Muslim??

Some urban legends just refuse to give up the ghost.

Google “Neil Armstrong and religion” and you’ll see dozens of postings on blogs and message boards asking the question, “Is Neil Armstrong a Muslim?”

A good overview of the myth, and the truth, here:

A few years ago, Armstrong participated in the Global Leadership Forum in Malaysia. The Star Malaysianewspaper reported on some unexpected questions he fielded from the audience.Is it true, he was asked, that as soon as he stepped onto the moon, he heard the Moslem call of Ezan — the call to prayer – the words “Allah-hu-akber?” Is it true that it caused him to proclaim “The real religion in the whole world is only Islam?”

Armstrong had heard the story before. It actually has several versions. One frequently sent on the Internet reads in Arabic:

“When Louis Armstrong and company walked on the moon, they heard sounds in a strange language they did not understand. Only later, after returning to earth, did they realize that it was actually the Ezan!

“Armstrong was heard to remark: ‘I have seen a few mosques with powerful speaker systems, but wow, somebody down here certainly turned on the power on that day!’”

Obviously that version confuses Neil Armstrong, the space explorer, with Louis Armstrong, the jazz musician.

But is there any truth at all to the stories?

As is his way, the astronaut  quietly told the Malaysian audience he had not had heard any Muslim call to prayer. Nor has he converted to Islam. Then Armstrong referred the questioner to a statement issued on Armstrong’s behalf back in 1983. It reads:

To: Mr. Phil Parshall, Director, Asian Research Center, International Christian Fellowship, Livonia, Michigan

Dear Mr. Parshall:

Mr. Armstrong has asked me to reply to your letter and to thank you for the courtesy of your inquiry. The reports of his conversion to Islam and of hearing the voice of Adzan on the moon and elsewhere are all untrue.

Several publications in Malaysia, Indonesia and other countries have published these reports without verification. We apologize for any inconvenience that this incompetent journalism may have caused you.

Subsequently, Mr. Armstrong agreed to participate in a telephone interview, reiterating his reaction to these stories. I am enclosing copies of the United States State Department’s communications prior to and after that interview.

Sincerely, Vivian White, Administrative Aide

It got so bad, the State Department even had to issue a statement.  Read all about it. 

The truth about Armstrong’s religious beliefs is a bit murky.  But his Wikipedia entry notes: “In the late 1950s, Armstrong applied at a local Methodist church to lead a Boy Scout troop. When asked for his religious affiliation, he labeled himself as a Deist.”

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