The Faiths of the Postwar Presidents: From Truman to Obama

By David L. Holmes | Go to book overview

Barack Hussein Obama
1961– PRESIDENT FROM 2009

During Barack Obama’s presidential campaign, voters asked whether a Protestant Christian with two Muslim grandparents, a Muslim father, a Muslim stepfather, and a first name that means “blessed” in Swahili and Arabic had ever been a Muslim himself. In 2007 a rumor circulated that Obama had attended a radical Muslim school in Indonesia as a child. In Florida, Jewish voters received e-mail messages declaring that Obama supported radical Islam over Israel.1

Five months before the election in 2008, a national survey showed that 10 percent of Americans viewed Obama as a Muslim and that only 53 percent knew his true religion.2 Obama’s headquarters received so many questions about his purported Muslim affiliation that it established a page on his campaign Web site dealing with the issue.3 More than two years after the election, at least one Web site still asserted that Obama’s “background, education, and outlook are Muslim.”4 As late as March 2011, a former Republican presidential candidate discussed Obama in a radio interview in the context of a spurious African childhood. “I would love to know more,” he answered when the show’s host questioned the lack of what he considered a true Hawaiian birth certificate for Obama:

What I know is troubling enough. And one thing that I do know is his
having grown up in Kenya, his view of the Brits, for example, [is] very dif-
ferent than the average American….But then, if you think about it, his
perspective as growing up in Kenya with a Kenyan father and grandfather,
their view of the Mau Mau Revolution in Kenya is very different than ours
because he probably grew up hearing that the British were a bunch of impe-
rialists who persecuted his grandfather.5

The birth certificate the host and candidate discussed—and the one Obama had released during the 2008 presidential campaign—was the short-

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