From Daniel Pipes Blog

by Daniel Pipes
FrontPageMagazine.com
August 25, 2008

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How do Muslims see Barack Hussein Obama? They have three choices: either as he presents himself – someone who has “never been a Muslim” and has “always been a Christian“; or as a fellow Muslim; or as an apostate from Islam.

Reports suggests that while Americans generally view the Democratic candidate having had no religion before converting at Reverend Jeremiah Wrights’s hands at age 27, Muslims the world over rarely see him as Christian but usually as either Muslim or ex-Muslim.

Lee Smith of the Hudson Institute explains why: “Barack Obama’s father was Muslim and therefore, according to Islamic law, so is the candidate. In spite of the Quranic verses explaining that there is no compulsion in religion, a Muslim child takes the religion of his or her father. … for Muslims around the world, non-American Muslims at any rate, they can only ever see Barack Hussein Obama as a Muslim.” In addition, his school record from Indonesia lists him as a Muslim

Thus, an Egyptian newspaper, Al-Masri al-Youm, refers to his “Muslim origins.” Libyan ruler Mu‘ammar al-Qaddafi referred to Obama as “a Muslim” and a person with an “African and Islamic identity.” One Al-Jazeera analysis calls him a “non-Christian man,” a second refers to his “Muslim Kenyan” father, and a third, by Naseem Jamali, notes that “Obama may not want to be counted as a Muslim but Muslims are eager to count him as one of their own.”

A conversation in Beirut, quoted in the Christian Science Monitor, captures the puzzlement. “He has to be good for Arabs because he is a Muslim,” observed a grocer. “He’s not a Muslim, he’s a Christian,” replied a customer. Retorted the grocer: “He can’t be a Christian. His middle name is Hussein.” Arabic discussions of Obama sometimes mention his middle name as a code, with no further comment needed.

“The symbolism of a major American presidential candidate with the middle name of Hussein, who went to elementary school in Indonesia,” reports Tamara Cofman Wittes of the Brookings Institution from a U.S.-Muslim conference in Qatar, “that certainly speaks to Muslims abroad.” Thomas L. Friedman of the New York Times found that Egyptians “don’t really understand Obama’s family tree, but what they do know is that if America — despite being attacked by Muslim militants on 9/11 — were to elect as its president some guy with the middle name ‘Hussein,’ it would mark a sea change in America-Muslim world relations.”

Some American Muslim leaders also perceive Obama as Muslim. The president of the Islamic Society of North America, Sayyid M. Syeed, told Muslims at a conference in Houston that whether Obama wins or loses, his candidacy will reinforce that Muslim children can “become the presidents of this country.” The Nation of Islam’s Louis Farrakhan called Obama “the hope of the entire world” and compared him to his religion’s founder, Fard Muhammad.

But this excitement also has a dark side – suspicions that Obama is a traitor to his birth religion, an apostate (murtadd) from Islam. Al-Qaeda has prominently featured Obama’s stating “I am not a Muslim” and one analyst, Shireen K. Burki of the University of Mary Washington, sees Obama as “bin Laden’s dream candidate.” Should he become U.S. commander in chief, she believes, Al-Qaeda would likely “exploit his background to argue that an apostate is leading the global war on terror … to galvanize sympathizers into action.”

Mainstream Muslims tend to tiptoe around this topic. An Egyptian supporter of Obama, Yasser Khalil, reports that many Muslims react “with bewilderment and curiosity” when Obama is described as a Muslim apostate; Josie Delap and Robert Lane Greene of the Economist even claim that the Obama-as-apostate theme “has been notably absent” among Arabic-language columnists and editorialists.

That latter claim is inaccurate, for the topic is indeed discussed. At least one Arabic-language newspaper published Burki’s article. Kuwait’s Al-Watan referred to Obama as “a born Muslim, an apostate, a convert to Christianity.” Writing in the Arab Times, Syrian liberal Nidal Na‘isa repeatedly called Obama an “apostate Muslim.”

In sum, Muslims puzzle over Obama’s present religious status. They resist his self-identification as a Christian while they assume a baby born to a Muslim father and named “Hussein” began life a Muslim. Should Obama become president, differences in Muslim and American views of religious affiliation will create problems.


Aug. 25, 2008 update: This is the fourth in a series of articles I have published on Barack Obama’s ties to Islam. The prior three:

Was Barack Obama a Muslim?” FrontPageMag.com, December 24, 2007. Raises questions about Obama’s childhood religion and considers some implications.

Confirmed: Barack Obama Practiced Islam.” FrontPageMag.com, January 7, 2008. Replies to a critique of the prevous article by “Media Matters for America.”

Barack Obama’s Muslim Childhood.” Jerusalem Post, May 1, 2008. Pulls together existing information on Obama’s childhood religion.

Related Topics: Freethinking & Muslim apostasy, Islam, Muslims in the United States, US politics

Reader comments on this article (135 comments)

Title By Date
Theodore Roosevelt (26th president of USA) praises Islam! [353 words] PDM Sep 8, 2008 18:03
Barack Hussein Obama’s own words [50 words] Maggie Sep 8, 2008 10:47
obama or maccain what will be the difference [61 words] syed mohammad ali Sep 7, 2008 10:13
islam is apostate [44 words] Mary Sep 8, 2008 16:05
Careful when you raise you voice, Syed [168 words] Jeff Sep 9, 2008 09:34
According to the Quran. ALL HUMANS ARE BORN A MUSLIM and later follow their parents religion. [84 words] shaan wise Sep 7, 2008 09:23
What a ridiculous claim [370 words] Jaladhi Sep 9, 2008 11:05
no puzzlement [226 words] Taj Sep 6, 2008 04:41
Our dear Taj and islamophobia [127 words] dhimmi no more Sep 7, 2008 08:23
empty hand… [46 words] Taj Sep 8, 2008 17:24
The respected Muslim scholar, Sheikh `Abdus-Sattar Fathallah As-Sa`eed on a Muslim’s Child’s Faith [241 words] Wana 88 Sep 5, 2008 23:07
Who Cares [89 words] TB USA Sep 5, 2008 15:58
Obama recited the Muslim call to prayer NYT [272 words] Mike Sep 5, 2008 15:45
To testify [313 words] Zerian Sep 5, 2008 21:34
Answer to Mike: Not necessarily a Muslim [268 words] Kevin in Chicago Sep 7, 2008 02:48
The most beautiful sound…. [158 words] donvan Sep 8, 2008 15:31
Is Barack Hussein Obama a Muslim [20 words] xman Sep 8, 2008 21:15
Hat’s off to Daniel Pipes [72 words] jennifer solis Sep 5, 2008 01:33
most americans could care less… [142 words] nate Sep 6, 2008 11:00
“Most Americans could care less…” [38 words] jennifer solis Sep 7, 2008 18:57
Oy Vey [100 words] Blackspeare Sep 4, 2008 12:49
Electing Obama [132 words] Imam Ahmed Syeed Ali Muhammed Sep 4, 2008 10:40
Is that the real reason [15 words] Straight_Talk_Luigi Sep 6, 2008 16:46
Really? [108 words] joe tony Sep 9, 2008 11:07
Obama is not Muslim and has never been a Muslim [161 words] Zerina Sep 3, 2008 18:16
Islam is Obama’s “Birth Right” According to Islam and Muslims [248 words] Wana 88 Sep 4, 2008 18:11
Most Muslims do not regard Obama as sharing our faith [223 words] Zerina Sep 5, 2008 15:32
ISLAM IS A PATRIARCHAL RELIGION… [133 words] Wana 88 Sep 5, 2008 22:58
Religion in politics [37 words] Liliana Sep 2, 2008 09:14
How Muslims see Obama [30 words] CHARLES KOTTICH Sep 2, 2008 08:59
Only time will tell! [22 words] Liliana Aug 31, 2008 21:58
Islamic Muharibun’s First Target Isn’t the Infidels… [350 words] Wana 88 Aug 30, 2008 21:54
Of course not!! [26 words] Straight_Talk_Luigi Aug 31, 2008 23:06
Obama’s Taqiyya [102 words] Bamaguje Aug 29, 2008 08:10
how the terrorists could have done it [32 words] Ahmed Sep 4, 2008 18:59
What exactly are you implying Ahmed? [190 words] sara Sep 5, 2008 17:42
The usual Muslim denial of truth [116 words] Jaladhi Sep 5, 2008 18:00
look! [30 words] Ahmed Sep 6, 2008 04:42
Ahmed- you are kidding, right? [96 words] sara Sep 7, 2008 04:51
Our dear Ahmed and in memory of the victims of the 9/11 atrocity [72 words] dhimmi no more Sep 7, 2008 08:17
I think you did swallow some shampoo, Ahmed [215 words] Jeff Sep 7, 2008 11:28
no comment [10 words] mARY Sep 8, 2008 16:12
Swallow this… [172 words] donvan Sep 9, 2008 11:39
Barack Obama though Barack sr’s Eyes [159 words] Lame Cherry Aug 28, 2008 21:43
How about his friends?? [230 words] Donna Aug 28, 2008 20:33
Young Syrians anxiously watching US race [13 words] Mathew Aug 28, 2008 16:08
(smirks)….a couple of notes [146 words] Straight_Talk_Luigi Aug 31, 2008 23:14
YES, YES, YES [89 words] jennifer solis Sep 5, 2008 01:45
Would Northern Ireland attack if we elect McCain [64 words] The More Educated Anne Aug 27, 2008 16:33
The IRA [20 words] Straight_Talk_Luigi Sep 6, 2008 16:49
McCain through the eyes of the world. [224 words] The More Educated Anne Sep 7, 2008 05:31
Educating the Left [1566 words] Straight_Talk_Luigi Sep 8, 2008 16:53
Obama knows that islam calls for death of apostates [116 words] M.J.Khan Aug 27, 2008 14:10
Barack is a Christian [75 words] The More Educated Anne Aug 27, 2008 16:42
I dont think muslims are foolish enough to target Obama if he becomes president [32 words] Singha Aug 28, 2008 10:42
Okay [31 words] Sep 3, 2008 20:00
reply [51 words] joe tony Sep 9, 2008 11:32
Senator Obama is Muslim… [716 words] Miah Termanini Aug 27, 2008 13:03
Obama’s only Church for 20+ years [659 words] jennifer solis Aug 27, 2008 18:50
Response to Miah Termanini [358 words] Straight_Talk_Luigi Aug 31, 2008 23:34
Barack Hussein Obama through Muslim Eyes [39 words] Rhea Aug 27, 2008 11:53
Dear Rea…. [250 words] bela Aug 27, 2008 22:39
VERY good question, Rhea [153 words] jennifer solis Aug 28, 2008 16:05
Senator Obama Gave an Answer Regarding His Faith at Saddleback Church Interview – There Should Be No Confusion For Muslims Then [405 words] M. Tovey Sep 3, 2008 19:35
“Obama gave an answer regarding his faith at Saddleback” – no, he didn’t [106 words] jennifer solis Sep 5, 2008 02:24
Obama and Muslims and Muslim logic [116 words] dhimmi no more Aug 27, 2008 07:55
Dhimmi, if you are right on what you said…. [32 words] Ynnatchkah Aug 27, 2008 19:27
Barrack Hussien Obama – is the name Arab? [59 words] jennifer solis Aug 28, 2008 16:29
The word Barrack [36 words] dhimmi no more Aug 30, 2008 07:22
Barack Obama Through Muslim Eyes [190 words] Debbie Aug 27, 2008 07:43
Obama through Christian eyes [241 words] The More Educated Anne Aug 27, 2008 05:34
Brilliantly said. [3 words] bela Aug 27, 2008 22:41
Freedom to Vote ,Make the right decision [75 words] Brenda Aug 28, 2008 17:43
Obama should run for world president rather than that of USA if he is liked so much by the Europeans and Middle Easterners!!!! [115 words] Jaladhi Aug 29, 2008 14:26
I understand Michelle [72 words] The More Educated Anne Aug 29, 2008 21:40
Everyone sees him/herself in Obama [84 words] Sumba Aug 30, 2008 17:21
Muslim Or Not – He Seems To Have A Lot Of Favor With Muslim Countries [201 words] Wiley Ryckeley Aug 26, 2008 23:47
The world sees through religious colored glasses [232 words] Chris Aug 26, 2008 21:18
Poor Excuse [59 words] Brenda Aug 28, 2008 17:07
This wasn’t meant as a dissertation on the KKK [105 words] Chris Aug 29, 2008 23:31
Many Muslims Don’t Understand Atheism – What’s The Chance…. [304 words] Rebecca Aug 26, 2008 20:45
Beware! A Wolf In Sheep’s Colthing [70 words] Brenda Tenna Aug 26, 2008 18:41
Obama’s Family Tree. [118 words] M.D’Souza Aug 26, 2008 18:20
A win-win situation [209 words] jennifer solis Aug 26, 2008 17:13
response [48 words] joe tony Sep 9, 2008 11:20
Barak Obama through muslim eyes [305 words] Rama Iyer Aug 26, 2008 15:43
All newborn are considered Muslim…. [68 words] American Muslim Aug 26, 2008 19:12
Yeah sure, every newborn is a Muslim [30 words] Jaladhi Aug 27, 2008 20:44
Islam is the natural religion . [73 words] Anne-Marie Delcambre Aug 29, 2008 09:09
Who is ignorant? [88 words] zeitraveller Sep 8, 2008 16:13
A Good Analysis by Hugh Fitzgerald of Jihad Watch [1284 words] EuskalHerria Aug 26, 2008 15:26
Obama is an apostate through Muslim eyes. [125 words] Anne-Marie Delcambre Aug 26, 2008 14:31
very unnerving [11 words] Jon Benedict Aug 26, 2008 05:10
Dr. Pipes should Define What sort of Problems will be Created by Contradicting American and Moslem Perceptions on Obama [38 words] Singha Aug 25, 2008 23:53
Aug 08 islamists in Kenya think highly of Obama ! [25 words] Phil Greend Aug 25, 2008 23:29
– and Obama wants tea with Ahmadinijad [58 words] jennifer solis Aug 26, 2008 17:48
Obama is the next Ahmedinijad [95 words] Mansoor Sep 3, 2008 14:58
Barack Obama [90 words] Straight_Talk_Luigi Aug 25, 2008 19:13
Very Interesting [28 words] Brenda Aug 27, 2008 00:06
Just a couple of Facts [74 words] Max Diamond Aug 25, 2008 17:52
Muslims worldwide regard Obama as one of them!!! [277 words] Jaladhi Aug 25, 2008 16:22
Obama the vacillator [227 words] Rebecca Moulds Aug 25, 2008 16:14
re Islam’s Historical situation and its situation today….
[w/response by Daniel Pipes] [113 words]
Jascha Kessler Aug 25, 2008 15:06
Barack Obama through Muslim Eyes or “A man for all seasons” [107 words] David MacKAY Aug 25, 2008 14:50
Mountain, meet mole hill [21 words] Matt Aug 25, 2008 14:43
Barack Obama through Muslim Eyes [366 words] Margaret Hood Aug 25, 2008 14:17
The Hope of the Entire World – Not!!! [64 words] Tom Aug 25, 2008 14:01
Why is the MSM ignoring Obama’s comments about Blacks’ basketball prowess? [10 words] Tony Kondaks Aug 25, 2008 12:50
Obama’s religion [137 words] Janusz Kowalik Aug 25, 2008 12:37
BELIEF VS. REASON … [135 words] Lee Aug 27, 2008 22:56
Belief rather than Reason [109 words] jennifer solis Aug 30, 2008 16:09
Excellent Article. [147 words] Ynnatchkah Aug 25, 2008 12:01
very concerned, indeed! [96 words] concerned Aug 25, 2008 11:51
What if he were a Muslim? [75 words] Charles Gilinsky Aug 25, 2008 11:51
Obama viewed as a Muslim-apostate by Muslims [176 words] Dennis Graves Aug 25, 2008 11:48
Maybe it is time…. [85 words] Edward Daniels Aug 25, 2008 11:01
BELIEVING MUSLIMS WORLDWIDE WOULD SEE OBAMA’S CONVERSION TO CHRISTIANITY AS A CASE OF “TAQQIYAH” (PIOUS DECEPTION) [241 words] G Marcus Aug 25, 2008 10:47
Obama’s “taqqiyah”? [104 words] jennifer solis Aug 26, 2008 18:31
Plenty of reasons to NOT vote for Obama besides Islam… [438 words] Straight_Talk_Luigi Sep 1, 2008 00:07
Good to hear from you, Luigi [466 words] jennifer solis Sep 2, 2008 20:31
I agree with this right-winger. [73 words] The More Educated Anne Sep 4, 2008 02:56
Thanks, but [164 words] Straight_Talk_Luigi Sep 4, 2008 19:09
what taqiya actually is… [156 words] Taj Sep 6, 2008 04:52
Response to Jennifer [449 words] Straight_Talk_Luigi Sep 6, 2008 17:22
Actually Taj, Taqiya has different origins than those you state… [243 words] sara Sep 7, 2008 04:58
Are you better off, Luigi? [80 words] The More Educated Anne Sep 7, 2008 05:54
correction, sara [268 words] Taj Sep 7, 2008 06:07
Our dear Taj and the doctrine of taqiyya [608 words] dhimmi no more Sep 7, 2008 07:43
al-Taqiyya [335 words] dhimmi no more Sep 7, 2008 07:54
“Far-left paganism Burning-man crowd?” -reply to Luigi [661 words] jennifer solis Sep 7, 2008 18:43
to Anne [238 words] Straight_Talk_Luigi Sep 8, 2008 17:29
just to be polite… [34 words] Taj Sep 8, 2008 17:49
Bogus again [62 words] dhimmi no more Sep 8, 2008 18:50
reply [16 words] joe tony Sep 9, 2008 11:37
Barack Obama through Muslim Eyes [1107 words] kim Segar Aug 25, 2008 10:44

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