Obama and Allah, past and present

I faced a crucial decision this week while writing the lede for my column for the Scripps Howard New Service, a decision that I knew — not matter what I decided — I was going to hear about it early and often.

In this case, I erred on the side of caution. Looking back, I think I was too cautious. However, I would be interested in knowing what GetReligion readers — especially journalism professionals — think on this matter.

So, here’s the opening chunk of the column:

In the spring of 2007, candidate Barack Obama met with a New York Times columnist and discussed his days as a “little Jakarta street kid” who once got in trouble for making faces during Koran classes.

Obama proceeded to recite the opening lines of the Muslim call to prayer in Arabic, with what Nicholas D. Kristof called a “first-rate accent.” Obama described this chant as “one of the prettiest sounds on Earth at sunset.”

This text, in one English translation, proclaims: “Allah is Supreme! Allah is Supreme! … I testify that there is no god but Allah! … I testify that Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.” These lines are known as the Shahada — from the Arabic verb, “to testify” — and reciting them, in public, with the intent of becoming a Muslim, is a crucial act in entering and then practicing the faith.

This is the kind of biographical detail that keeps complicating matters for journalists who try to make sense of the poll from the Pew Research Center and the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life indicating that 18 percent of Americans think Obama is a Muslim, as opposed to 11 percent in March 2009.

The crucial lede decision? Yes or no — should I have included “Hussein,” the president’s middle name?

Yes, it is true that the trio of letters that shape this Arabic name — H-S-N, as in Hussein, Hassan, etc. — is highly symbolic. However, the man who gave the president that name, Barack Hussein Obama, Sr. — was not a practicing Muslim at the time, even if his symbolic name would indicate that. By then, the common testimony is that he was an atheist. Clearly, this name points toward heritage more than practice.

However, the minute you include that middle name in a reference to the president, people are going to start getting upset. Some will claim that using this name is the same thing as refusing to admit that Obama has, in fact, converted to Christianity. There are “birthers” out there in cyberspace. What should we call those who reject his accounts of his conversion? How about “new-birthers”? What do people do with the following, as I quoted the material in my column?

In his memoir, “The Audacity of Hope,” Obama confessed that as a young social activist he realized, “Rich, poor, sinner, saved, you needed to embrace Christ precisely because you had sins to wash away — because you were human. … I was finally able to walk down the aisle of Trinity United Church of Christ one day and be baptized. … Kneeling beneath that cross on the South Side of Chicago, I felt God’s spirit beckoning me. I submitted myself to His will, and dedicated myself to discovering His truth.”

When I post this column online at Tmatt.net next week, I am going to include “Hussein” in the lede and then link back to this post to provide background material.

After reading the ongoing waves of coverage of the Pew Forum poll, I set out to write a column that was based as much as possible on three sources: (1) Obama’s own words, (2) statements from the Obama team and (3) mainstream news coverage of his faith history, drawing only from on-the-record sources.

I created a thick file and pulled out my marked-up Obama memoirs. I have concluded three things:

* There is no question that, despite all the denials, the young Barry practiced Islam in Indonesia. He went to mosque, said the prayers, studied the Koran in Arabic and some of his Muslim friends remember him as being quite devout. But here is the big question: Would it help or hurt public discourse if members of the Obama team stopped denying this?

* There is reason to believe that some, repeat “some,” Muslims might consider Obama to be an apostate Muslim, due to his early faith history and his public conversion to Christianity. But this requires viewing the issue from one Muslim point of view, one of several competing Muslim points of view on issues of faith and identity. As always, let me stress a point we often make here at GetReligion — there is no one Islam, no monolithic approach to many, many issues of tradition and law.

* How anyone can doubt that Obama is a convert to a liberal, Universalistic Christianity — as he has said — is totally beyond me. He is a liberal Christian. Conservative Christians can argue that some of his beliefs are wrong (to which, as an Eastern Orthodox believer, I would certainly say, “Amen”), but how can anyone say that he has not given frequent public confessions of faith? Yes, it would help if Trinity UCC would clearly verify that he was baptized (there is online debate about this, of course). Journalists need to do a better job of quoting Obama’s testimony and his many statements about his faith, struggles and beliefs. Period.

With so much chatter and misinformation out there, I also think it would be constructive if citizens knew more information about Obama’s past. Journalists must be willing to quote, to the best of their abilities, what is accurate in order to note that is inaccurate.

Yes, Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post is right. This is a time for some journalistic soul searching.

In my Scripps column, I focused on making a few key points:

… (The) Obama team has had difficulty communicating a clear message about his faith history. Campaign aides, at first, said he had never been a Muslim, but later stressed that he had never been “a practicing Muslim.”

Obama’s family history is hard to describe. His father was a Muslim from Kenya who became an atheist. His stepfather was a Muslim who, in Obama’s words, was raised in an era in which Indonesia offered a tolerant approach to Islam that blended with “remnants of Hinduism, Buddhism, and ancient animist traditions.” His mother was raised as a Christian, but adopted her own mix of secularism and spirituality.

While in Indonesia, Obama attended what he has called a “Muslim” public school and also a Catholic school. At both schools, according to educators interviewed by the Los Angeles Times, his faith was listed as “Muslim.” School friends recalled that they often went to the mosque together.

Of course, I also had to deal with the whole CNN interview with the Rev. Franklin Graham, a classic example of producers going for heat instead of light when choosing an on-air source. Name recognition is not everything.

Once again, it is so easy to be simplistic and to say that Graham was completely right in saying that patrilineal descent is THE SINGULAR issue in matters of Islamic identity. It is also too simplistic to say that he was completely wrong. As a legal matter, the father’s faith identity is important, but not definitive.

Thus, the column ended like this:

Franklin Graham was only partially right when he told CNN: “The president’s problem is that he was born a Muslim. His father was a Muslim. The seed of Islam is passed through the father. … His father gave him an Islamic name.” Graham added that Obama has “renounced Islam and he has accepted Jesus Christ. That’s what he says he has done. I cannot say that he hasn’t.”

This view of Islamic tradition is much too simplistic, said Stephen Prothero of Boston University, author of “God is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions that Run the World.” There is more to this debate about faith and identity than DNA, he stressed.

“As a matter of jurisprudence, however, there is a presumption that a child born to a Muslim father is Muslim,” said Prothero, in an email exchange. “This needs to be followed up with ACTION, however. …

“Like Christianity, Islam is a matter of choice, not inheritance.”

So let the JOURNALISTIC discussions begin.

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About tmatt

Terry Mattingly directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He writes a weekly column for the Universal Syndicate.

  • Ben

    It’s his middle name. *shrug*. Where you lose me a little bit is you haven’t offered any evidence that there are any Muslims that have actually called Obama an apostate. So when you keep raising it, I sometimes wonder if you are encouraging Al Qaeda types to add this to their grievances with the US.

  • michael

    It’s not clear from Kurtz’s article that he understands what ‘soul-searching’ means. At least I’m unaware of any form of soul searching that includes rattling off, in a tone of condescension and disapproval, statistical surveys of what other people think. That’s a bit like going to confession and confessing all your wife’s sins or apologizing to someone by saying, “I’m sorry you feel that way.” Of course this is no apology at all but a veiled way of saying, “Pity you’re such a pathetic idiot.” This is what a lot of this media ‘soul searching’ seems to amount to.

    Nor is soul searching quite the same thing as evaluating whether you have an effective communications strategy or the right technique. That is to confuse soul searching with sophistry. This too, is what a lot of this media ‘soul searching’ seems to amount to. If only we had a better way of knocking some sense into these yokels…

    Soul searching, as I understand it, usually involves a good faith attempt to think deeply and truly about…well…one’s own soul. It usually involves questioning one’s own assumptions and motivations and whether, for instance, one is committed in good faith to thinking deeply and truly. Surely Terry’s piece shows that the present controversy provides something to think hard about.

    That might be a good place to start. It might even result, per accidens, in better journalism.

  • Darel

    First and foremost, I would like journalists to pursue what the statement “I think Obama is a Mulsim” means to people who believe this. The most interesting particle of information from the Pew Forum poll shows a 26-67 approval gap for Obama among Americans who think he is a Muslim versus a nearly opposite 62-29 approval gap for Obama among those who think he is a Christian.

    I wonder if the Pew poll is picking up less “I think Obama is a Muslim” and more a combination of “I think Obama is a foreigner. i.e. not a ‘real American’” and “I think Obama is a black radical”. How many white Americans think there is (or could name) any relevant difference between Jeremiah Wright and Louis Farrakhan?

  • http://www.statesman.com/faith Joshunda

    I think this is a great column that provides a lot more insight into Obama’s previous relationship to Islam than 90 percent of the reporting I’ve done on the subject.

    I think Howard Kurtz has a good point. I agree with Michael when he talks about the definition of soul-searching — and reporters/bloggers/tv producers don’t have time for a lot of searching their souls when they’re writing about an issue that has spiraled out of control at the rate that this debate has.

    In any event, I don’t think it was wrong to leave out his middle name. No one used JFK’s middle name when they referred to him in most forms of discourse. What would be the point of bringing that up? A name is a name. It’s not like he changed it to do a bait and switch on folks before he became president.

  • dalea

    What strikes me about the coverage is that the distinction between a child who is controlled by his parents and an adult free to make a choice is lacking. Obama was under 10 years of age when, living with a Muslim stepfather in a Muslim country, he had his known involvement with Islam. There is no evidence of any adult or teen aged practice. Why the stress on what a 7 year old did? The ghost here seems to be the idea that when taught at an early age about religion, adults will stay very close to that teaching. There is some fabled Jesuit saying about this, something like ‘give me the child to teach’ etc. That seems to be part of the framing.

  • Truth Unites… and Divides

    “He went to mosque, said the prayers, studied the Koran in Arabic and some of his Muslim friends remember him as being quite devout. But here is the big question: Would it help or hurt public discourse if members of the Obama team stopped denying this?”

    My big answer is that I think it would help public discourse if members of the Obama team would stop denying the facts.

  • SouthCoast

    This is, perhaps, tangential, but I’ve had a question about Kristof’s comment to which I have never seen an answer: does Kristof speak or understand Arabic? If not, how does he know how good Obama’s accent is, or was that just a passing piece of puffery? Not a weighty matter, but just a bit of a journalistic hangnail for the reader!

  • http://www.biblebeltblogger.com Frank Lockwood

    I thought the column read great in its original form.

    In your lead, you use the word “candidate” before the name — and the “candidate” — I would argue — is Barack Obama, not Barry Obama or Barack Hussein Obama. Barack Obama is the brand name — what appears on the ballot, the product being peddled. Similarly, I would refer to candidate Jimmy (not James Earl) Carter and Mike (not Michael Dale) Huckabee.

  • blandus

    I agree that it was most proper to leave out the middle name.

    I also agree with @5-TU: it would overall help public discourse if the Obama team stopped denying. However, it would feel a bit of bait-and-switch to disgruntled voters (who may well be using “Muslim” as “I don’t like this guy and am angry with him”) and would hurt him politically.

  • Jerry

    * There is no question that, despite all the denials, the young Barry practiced Islam in Indonesia. He went to mosque, said the prayers, studied the Koran in Arabic and some of his Muslim friends remember him as being quite devout. But here is the big question: Would it help or hurt public discourse if members of the Obama team stopped denying this?

    From the following quote President Obama was never a “practicing Muslim” because one does not become a Muslim until one decides to at maturity, age 15. I’ve attended various religious services, studied various scriptures and recited various prayers without anyone in the world assuming I was “practicing” that religion in terms of being a member of that Church or Buddhist Sangha.

    And that partly answers your question. In the current atmosphere the truth has to hide in a bomb shelter because of what happens when it emerges.

    * There is reason to believe that some, repeat “some,” Muslims might consider Obama to be an apostate Muslim, due to his early faith history and his public conversion to Christianity. But this requires viewing the issue from one Muslim point of view, one of several competing Muslim points of view on issues of faith and identity. As always, let me stress a point we often make here at GetReligion — there is no one Islam, no monolithic approach to many, many issues of tradition and law.

    You’re right, Terry, but I think you need to go further than the statement about “some”. An important if not key question is what Muslim scholars believe based on scripture. I have not seen that explored other than the following from John Cole who, as usual, provided some very important background, specifically about birth and apostasy in Islam:

    children of Muslim parents who embrace Islam typically recite the confession of faith around puberty and undertake to fulfill the obligations of Islamic law at that time. Until that time, they are not mukallaf or obliged to perform the rituals of the religion.

    “Not only the act of apostasy is subject to certain conditions in order to be legally valid, but also with regard to the perpetrator (murtadd) specific qualifications have been laid down. He can perform a legally effective act of riddah [apostasy] only out of free will (ikhtiyar) at an adult age (bulugh), being compos mentis (`aqil [of sound mind]), and, as emphasized by the Malikite school, after his unambiguous and explicit adoption of Islam.” [- p. 3][P. 2, n. 3: "It is equally stated that this Islam needs to be evident in both qawl [speech] and `amal [deed]; a person who embraced the faith by merely pronouncing the shahadah [profession of faith] would not be considered qulified to perform a legally valid act of apostasy– Cf. Mawwaq in the margin of Hattab, Mawahib al-Jalil, VI, pp. 279-80]”

    Barack Obama never accepted or practiced Islam as an adult (which would be age 15 in Islamic law) and therefore according to classical Islamic jurisprudence cannot be an apostate…’

    http://www.juancole.com/2010/08/dear-rev-franklin-obama-was-not-born-a-muslim-and-neither-is-anyone-else.html

  • http://www.tmatt.net tmatt

    JERRY:

    Thank you for the EXCELLENT material on one scholastic approach to those issues. You are aware that, as in other faiths, people disagree on what those mean?

  • http://www.tmatt.net tmatt

    SOUTHCOAST:

    What a totally logical and excellent question.

    But he works for the NYTs, right? Might he be wrong? Horrors.

  • http://www.tmatt.net tmatt

    DAREL:

    I wonder if, down in the data, the folks in the 18 percent who think he is a Muslim are not, in fact, only marginally religious in any way.

    I think people assume that this is a heavily churched segment. Maybe so. But I’d like to see the numbers. I know tons of church people who don’t like his beliefs. But they would affirm his testimony and say that, ultimately, God is the only judge for ALL OF US.

  • http://www.perpetuaofcarthage.blogspot.com Perpetua

    Hi Terry,

    I don’t know what this is about. Would you please explain?

    Yes, it is true that the trio of letters that shape this Arabic name — H-S-N, as in Hussein, Hassan, etc. — is highly symbolic.

    Also, you wrote:

    How anyone can doubt that Obama is a convert to a liberal, Universalistic Christianity — as he has said — is totally beyond me.

    I just re-read the 2004 Catheen Falsani interview with Obama about his faith. In the interview he describes his mother as a Christian, but Falsani notes that in his book Dreams from My Father, he describe her as a secular humanist.

    Obama describes his father, after whom he is named, as “agnostic.” His paternal grandfather was a Muslim. His mother, he says, was a Christian.

    “My mother, who I think had as much influence on my values as anybody, was not someone who wore her religion on her sleeve,” he says. “We’d go to church for Easter. She wasn’t a ‘church lady.’ ”

    In his 1993 memoir, Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance, Obama describes his mother as “a lonely witness for secular humanism.”

    Aren’t Christian and secular humanist mutually exclusive choices? It would seem that in the Falsani interview, Obama was trying to present himself as a Christian and found it convenient to present his mother as one as well. But that just makes me think we can’t treat what he says about religion as fact.

    I also notice that you describe his father as “atheist” but Obama describes him in the Falsani interview as “agnostic”.

  • Jerry

    Thank you for the EXCELLENT material on one scholastic approach to those issues. You are aware that, as in other faiths, people disagree on what those mean?

    Yes, of course. My basic point is that stories should differentiate what scriptures say or at least how they are interpreted by those knowledgeable from what people out of ignorance think they say whether they be members of the religion or not.

    If someone comes forward with an alternative Quranic or Quran plus Hadith interpretation of what makes someone a Muslim, I’d be interested in reading that as well.

  • http://www.mikehickerson.com Mike Hickerson

    Perpetua,

    On Terry’s statement –

    Yes, it is true that the trio of letters that shape this Arabic name — H-S-N, as in Hussein, Hassan, etc. — is highly symbolic.

    I can shed some light. Semitic languages (like Hebrew and Arabic) are based on three-consonant roots that often carry over from language to language. So, for example, shalom – S(h)-L-M – is related to salaam. Here’s the Wikipedia entry on Hussein and related names. It means “good” or “handsome” and is important to Islam because it was the name of Mohammed’s grandson.

  • Ann

    “JAKARTA, Indonesia – When Barack Obama was a boy here, he studied for three years at a religious school and prayed four times a day.

    It was a Roman Catholic school. There, Obama was registered as student No. 203. “Yes, he prayed, because all the students here had to pray in the Catholic way–`in the name of the Father, [Son] and the Holy Spirit,’ ” recalled Obama’s 1st-grade teacher, Israella Pareira Darmawan.

    Obama’s stepfather, Lolo Soetoro, was much more of a free spirit than a devout Muslim, according to former friends and neighbors. And the school described as an Islamic madrassa in media reports actually was a public school, so progressive that teachers wore miniskirts and all students were encouraged to celebrate Christmas.

    Interviews with dozens of former classmates, teachers, neighbors and friends show that Obama was not a regular practicing Muslim when he was in Indonesia, despite being listed as a Muslim on the registration form for the Catholic school, Strada Asisia, where he attended 1st through 3rd grades.

    In their first neighborhood, Obama occasionally followed his stepfather to the mosque for Friday prayers, a few neighbors said. But Soetoro usually was too busy working, first for the Indonesian army and later for a Western oil company.

    “Sometimes Lolo went to the mosque to pray, but he rarely socialized with people,” said Fermina Katarina Sinaga, Obama’s 3rd-grade teacher at the Catholic school, who lived near the family. “Rarely, Barry went to the mosque with Lolo.”

    Zulfan Adi, a former neighborhood playmate of Obama’s who has been cited in news reports as saying Obama regularly attended Friday prayers with Soetoro, told the Tribune he was not certain about that when pressed about his recollections. He only knew Obama for a few months, during 1970, when his family moved to the neighborhood.”

    http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/politics/chi-070325obama-islam-story-archive,0,3358809.story

    There is more detail in the above article. It says Obama may have been listed as a Muslim because it was traditional to list the father’s religion. In addition there were several errors in his records at the Catholic school

    Much is published about the Muslim school, but little is published about three out of four years were at a Catholic school. In “Dreams of My Father,” Obama said the school change was because they moved. Stepfather was having job problems that resulted in less money. He describes how his stepfather became an angry man, which was the major reason his mother divorced the stepfather.

    Obama did change the description of his mother’s religious beliefs since the 2004 interview. His grandparents had been Methodist (grandmother) and Baptist (grandfather). The grandparents attended a Unitarian Church when they moved to Seattle. Obama’s mothert was in high school. Her classmates said she claimed to be an atheist and was good at arguing the position. I do not know whether his mother was baptized before they moved to Seattle. Obama said she was against organized religion. Obama’s sister said their mother was agnostic, but she introduced them to many religions. She took them to Christian churchs on Easter.

  • Jerry

    Here’s another part of the picture from “politifact”. They are clearly speaking of “cultural Muslims” like we speak of “cultural Jews” and I had not considered that earlier. I don’t agree with their ‘barely true’ ranking, but from a religious perspective, they support what I posted earlier. For what it’s worth, I do wish they had provided more sources for their analysis.

    In looking at most of the scholarly and objective descriptions of the Islamic faith, we found little to support Graham’s statement that “the seed of Muslim is passed through the father,” absent belief in the tenets of the religion. In fact, the vast majority of sources said that religious faith was based on the affirmation of Islamic beliefs. But we found a secondary definition that said people born to a Muslim father and identify as cultural Muslims could be considered Islamic, even if they don’t have Islamic beliefs, though that was considered controversial. So we rate Graham’s statement Barely True.

    http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2010/aug/26/franklin-graham/graham-said-seed-islam-passes-through-father-obama/ which also referenced their earlier review of the issue http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/article/2010/aug/26/why-do-so-many-people-think-obama-muslim/

  • http://www.perpetuaofcarthage.blogspot.com Perpetua

    In Egypt, if the father is Muslim, then the children are Muslim. And the father can’t convert to a “lesser” religion. See here:

    But Hegazy was the first convert to sue Egypt for rejecting his application to officially change his religion on his identification papers. He explained that his wife, who is also a Muslim convert to Christianity, was expecting a baby and wanted his daughter to be raised in an openly Christian environment.

    In Egypt, a child’s registered religion is based on the father’s official faith. Therefore, since Hegazy is officially Muslim, his daughter would not be able to enroll in Christian religious classes at school, wed in a church, or attend church services openly without harassment under Egyptian law.

  • Evanston2

    #3 Darel, I agree (and have said on GetReligion, repeatedly) that it’d be good if journalists dealt with what the statement “I think Obama is a Muslim” means to people who believe this. I cited the same stats you did…Obama as a Muslim is not a big negative to a substantial percentage of those who believe it. This is, after all, the real story here — the people polled by Pew. Plus, the Administration has adopted a “blame the customer” approach by blaming Americans for believing what they do, instead of considering how their own (lack of?) communication may have fostered this perception. I continue to believe that’s a worthwhile secondary story, because I doubt anyone’s mind has been changed by the simple name-calling adopted by the WH and its media allies. I look forward to follow-on polls and have decided that journalists simply can’t handle this issue. Requires reflection.

  • Julia Duin

    Despite Mr. Cole’s information, that’s not how things are on the ground in Muslim countries. It’s not true that children don’t become Muslims until, say, age 15 or so. In 2004 when I went to Iraq, I looked into adopting an Iraqi child and was told that Christians such as myself were not allowed to adopt Muslims. (Adoption as such doesn’t exist in Islam but that’s another story). The two orphanages I visited were labored Christian (for the Assyrian kids) or Muslim. Kids were labeled at a very early age as to what religion they were. There are all sorts of laws in Muslim countries against trying to get a child to convert to another religion so believe me, a child is definitely considered to have his or her own faith at a pretty early age. Even in comparatively moderate Kazakhstan (which is majority Muslim), you’re in hot water if you try to convert Muslim kids to another religion.

  • Ann

    “The crucial lede decision? Yes or no — should I have included “Hussein,” the president’s middle name?”

    The majority of individuals that have used his middle name have done it with the intent of slamming or being negative towards Obama. For example on Fox, Ann Coulter, or Rush Limbaugh.

  • dalea

    What the press is overlooking is that Obama’s mother was an anthropologist. This seems to be something that influences his religious beliefs. From The Audacity of Hope:

    I was not raised in a religious household. For my mother, organized religion too often dressed up closed-mindedness in the garb of piety, cruelty and oppression in the cloak of righteousness. However, in her mind, a working knowledge of the world’s great religions was a necessary part of any well-rounded education. In our household the Bible, the Koran, and the Bhagavad Gita sat on the shelf alongside books of Greek and Norse and African mythology.

    On Easter or Christmas Day my mother might drag me to church, just as she dragged me to the Buddhist temple, the Chinese New Year celebration, the Shinto shrine, and ancient Hawaiian burial sites.In sum, my mother viewed religion through the eyes of the anthropologist; it was a phenomenon to be treated with a suitable respect, but with a suitable detachment as well.

    From:

    http://atheism.about.com/od/barackobamareligionfaith/a/ObamaReligion.htm

  • Jerry

    “The crucial lede decision? Yes or no — should I have included “Hussein,” the president’s middle name?”

    I was not going to write anything else on this topic, Terrence, but Ann’s post provoked me to ask why not use the name he prefers? I’m amazed that the stylebook would not say that since I consider it ordinary politeness to call someone by the name they prefer. Otherwise, I guess I could emulate http://02varvara.wordpress.com/2010/08/04/rod-dreher-should-take-king-juan-carlos%E2%80%99-words-to-heart/ and use Terrence since it’s your full given name (assuming that site has it correct).

  • http://www.mikehickerson.com Mike Hickerson

    The majority of individuals that have used his middle name have done it with the intent of slamming or being negative towards Obama. For example on Fox, Ann Coulter, or Rush Limbaugh.

    So, therefore, all uses of the President’s middle name are attacks against him? He used it himself during his inauguration. (A recording is here, in case you need sources.) Like Jerry writes above, use the name that he himself prefers. :)

    Since tmatt’s column was about the President’s connections to Islam, I think it would have been appropriate to use “Hussein,” since it has far-reaching importance in Islam beyond its surface connections to Saddam Hussein. Space was limited, of course, but a paragraph about the meaning and history of the name might have helped. Using the name could have also reinforced tmatt’s larger point that Pres. Obama’s connections to Islam aren’t just the crazy inventions of his opponents.

  • Harris

    John Sides at the Washington Post tracks down the numbers behind the increased perception that Obama is a Muslim. This increase appears to be principally a feature of the conservative side of the spectrum, and most interestingly, that of the educated or informed consumers of opinion. This suggests that the vitality of the meme is perhaps a result of who talks about it, and with that, why.

  • http://www.perpetuaofcarthage.blogspot.com Perpetua

    Hi dalea,

    Great quote!

    And remember Obama called his mother a Christian in the Falsani interview. So, maybe Obama’s idea of who is a Christian includes “secular humanists” who view religion with “a suitable respect, but a suitable detachment as well.”

    This would certainly support those in the poll who did not identify Obama as a Christian (despite his public claims to be one).

  • Evanston2

    Harris @ 26, thank you for the link.

  • kjs

    I think your decision to leave “Hussein” out was wiser. If you’d included it, a discussion about its significance would be needed.

  • John M

    His first name contains the Semitic consonental root B-R-K. As in the name of another famous Arab leader, “Mubarak”. It just so happens that most Americans don’t associate the name “Barack” with “Mubarak” and we haven’t fought a war against Husni Mubarak.

    I rather suspect that if Obama’s middle name were “Mohsen” (same root as “Hussein”, slightly different meaning), then citing his middle name would be as small an issue as citing his first name.

    -John

  • http://floridanofault.xanga.com mark

    I wonder how many people who think Obama is a Muslim realize that Christians and Muslims believe in the same God?

  • http://www.tmatt.net tmatt

    MARK:

    Careful. Many Muslims would reject that, in fierce opposition to a Trinitarian God.

    Remember the quote in the Dome of the Rock.

  • kjs

    Mark,

    Not only many Muslims, as Terry points out, but many Christians, would reject the idea that Christians & Muslims worship “the same God.”