Was Barack Obama a Muslim at one time? If he was, why do we care?


In case you're like me and haven't been following, the internet is bursting with articles linking Barack Obama to Islam. As early as 13 months ago, an email chain started making its way around. It extracted various facts from Barack's youth and intertwined them with numerous exaggerations and outright lies. Some versions of this email even described Barack as going to great lengths to conceal his very active Muslim faith and cited his supposed attendance at a radical, extremist Muslim terrorist school while growing up in Jakarta, Indonesia. All of these smear-campaign emails are blatant falsehood, of course, and were busted on both About.com and Snopes.com.

For greater perspective, and an attempt at a more sane point of view, this topic was picked up by Daniel Pipes, who is director of the Middle East Forum, and is also a fellow-blogger as well as a columnist for the New York Times Syndicate. On Christmas Eve 2007, in his article entitled "Was Barack Obama a Muslim?" Pipes explored the question of whether Muslim people see Obama as an Apostate or Murtad. In other words, is Obama considered to have left the Muslim faith in order to convert to another faith (thus making him elegible for execution)?

Pipes reviewed information from Obama's past, such as being born to a Muslim father from Kenya (Barack Hussein Obama, Sr.). The article also described how Barack was later educated by his Muslim stepfather (Lolo Soetoro) after his atheist, caucasian American mother (Ann Dunham) divorced Barack Obama Sr. and then re-married. Pipes also cited the fact that Barack Jr. was registered as a Muslim when enrolled at school in Jakarta and that he often attended evening prayers at the mosque with his step-father.

Weeks later, Pipes was challenged and criticised by the not-for-profit research and anti-misinformation organisation, Media Matters for America (MMfA). Some of the information presented in, and sources used for "Was Barack Obama a Muslim?" were questioned and labeled as Falsehood. In order to refute these claims, Pipes published a follow-up articled entitled, "Confirmed: Barack Obama Practiced Islam." In his second article Pipes presented arguments to uphold the accuracy and relevancy of his claims. He concluded, therefore, that the challenge was unfounded and that Barack Obama, "for some years had a reasonably Muslim upbringing under the auspices of his Indonesian step-father."

There are two details surrounding this information that Daniel Pipes did not include, which I feel are important in one's consideration of Obama's situation. First-- Ann Dunham (Barack Obama's mother) divorced Barack Obama Sr. when Junior was only 2 years old. There could not possibly have been, therefore, much influence from his father. Second-- Obama lived with Lolo Soetoro (his step father) in Indonesia for only four years from ages 6 to 10, at which point he returned to Hawaii to live with his maternal grandparents. Any true Muslim upbringing that he had would have occurred during the late 60s, ending sometime in 1970-- BEFORE Obama hit puberty! This is important to note since in Islam, the punishment is much less severe for someone who becomes a Murtad in their pre-pubescent years, compared to the punishment an adult would receive (i.e. children are not punished by the shedding of blood).

Now comes the time for this blogger to draw conclusions of his own. First I presented the question, "Was Barack Obama a Muslim at one time?" According to Obama himself, he has always been a Christian and I believe him. For those of us like me with a secular perspective on life it simply does not matter anyway. What is/was truly in his heart can only be known by Allah or Jesus, whichever the case may be. The important point to note, however, is that if he was a Muslim, he be came a Murtad, or Apostate, BEFORE reaching puberty.

Second I asked, "Why do we care?" If Barack Obama is viewed as a Murtad by the world's Muslim population, he may be at the beginning of a very difficult journey filled with criticism and opposition should he become president, especially in the area of international relations. There is also a chance he might be risking death. Should he be elected, this issue is bound to come up time and time again and is likely to come to the forefront during times when matters involving Musilm nations and/or people are involved.

In summary I would just like to note that all of these emails, discussions and investigations, while possibly meant to expose "truth" and/or bring Senator Obama into disfavour, primarily contribute to greater strife between non-Muslims and Islam (something we seem to already have in greater abundance than ever thought possible). As always, voters are highly encouraged to conduct their own research and draw their own informed conclusions before heading into the voting booths this November. If we all follow this rule, the right candidate will be elected.

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