The Lie That Barack Obama Is a Muslim Won't Go Away

By Ruether, Rosemary Radford | National Catholic Reporter, October 17, 2008 | Go to article overview

The Lie That Barack Obama Is a Muslim Won't Go Away


Ruether, Rosemary Radford, National Catholic Reporter


[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Why does the lie that Barack Obama is a Muslim continue to persist in the minds of many Americans? A July poll showed that about 10-12 percent of Americans believed this falsehood. This number has now expanded to about 13 percent, with almost a third of those polled saying he might be a Muslim. This falsehood did not arise spontaneously. It was intentionally concocted, circulated on numerous Web sites and through e-mails by a variety of sources. The falsehood pretends to be based on reading Mr. Obama's autobiography, Dreams from My Father, but it is reflects a misreading of that book.

Let us briefly review the facts. Mr. Obama's Kenyan grandfather adopted Islam, believing it to be less racist toward Africans than Christianity. His father, Barack Obama Sr., was raised a Muslim but had become hostile to all religions by the time he met Ann Dunham, the University of Hawaii student who became his wife. Barack Obama Sr. left to go for further education at Harvard when his son was 2 and so he had no effect on his upbringing. Ann Dunham was an agnostic who believed all faiths should be respected. She occasionally took her young son to Catholic Mass in Jakarta, and in Honolulu the family sometimes went to a Congregational church at Easter and Christmas. She herself was primarily drawn to Buddhism and lived briefly in a Buddhist monastery. When Barack was 6, his mother married an Indonesian man, Lolo Soetoro, a laid-back Muslim open to religious diversity.

In Indonesia, Barack went to a private Catholic school for first and second grade. Then for third and fourth grade, he was transferred to an elite public school where most of the students and teachers were Muslim, the majority religion of Indonesia. This school gave instruction in the different faiths of the students, but there no great emphasis on religion. It was emphatically not a madrassah, or Muslim seminary, as some falsely assert. Thus, as a child, Barack Obama received some instruction in both Catholicism and Islam, but so far we have had no blogs claiming he is a "covert Catholic."

At age 10 Barack decided he wanted to live with his grandparents in Honolulu. From fifth grade through high school, he attended a nonsectarian college preparatory school founded by Congregational missionaries, thanks to a scholarship that his grandfather was able to get for him. Barack's grandparents from Kansas came from a Southern Baptist background but were not regular churchgoers.

At the age of 18, Barack went to Occidental College in Los Angeles. At 20, he transferred to Columbia-University in New York. During this period he occasionally would attend black churches, such as the famous Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, and was deeply moved by the preaching and singing.

Moving to Chicago as a community organizer deepened his religious search since many of his colleagues were committed Christians with a social justice perspective. …

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The Lie That Barack Obama Is a Muslim Won't Go Away
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