Obama Comes Out of Muslim Closet
Jake Tapper and Sunlen Miller note that Barack Obama is suddenly proud of his Muslim heritage:
During a conference call in preparation for President Obama’s trip to Cairo, Egypt, where he will address the Muslim world, deputy National Security Adviser for Strategic Communications Denis McDonough said “the President himself experienced Islam on three continents before he was able to — or before he’s been able to visit, really, the heart of the Islamic world — you know, growing up in Indonesia, having a Muslim father — obviously Muslim Americans (are) a key part of Illinois and Chicago.”
Given widespread unease and prejudice against Muslims among Americans, especially in the wake of 9/11, the Obama campaign was perhaps understandably very sensitive during the primaries and general election to downplay the candidate’s Muslim roots. The candidate was even offended when referred to by his initials “BHO,” because he considered the use of his middle name, “Hussein,” an attempt to frighten voters.
With insane rumors suggesting he was some sort of Muslim Manchurian candidate, then-Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., and his campaign did everything they could to emphasize his Christianity and de-emphasize the fact that his father, Barack Obama Sr., was born Muslim. The candidate’s comment at a Boca Raton, Florida, town hall meeting on May 22, 2008, was typical: “My father was basically agnostic, as far as I can tell, and I didn’t know him,” he said.
In September 2008, candidate Obama told a Pennsylvania crowd, “I know that I’m not your typical presidential candidate and I just want to be honest with you. I know that the temptation is to say, ‘You know what? The guy hasn’t been there that long in Washington. You know, he’s got a funny name. You know, we’re not sure about him.’ And that’s what the Republicans when they say this isn’t about issues, it’s about personalities, what they’re really saying is, ‘We’re going to try to scare people about Barack. So we’re going to say that, you know, maybe he’s got Muslim connections.’…Just making stuff up.”
Back then, the campaign’s “Fight the Smears” website addressed the candidate’s faith without mentioning his father’s religion: “Barack Obama is a committed Christian. He was sworn into the Senate on his family Bible. He has regularly attended church with his wife and daughters for years. But shameful, shadowy attackers have been lying about Barack’s religion, claiming he is a Muslim instead of a committed Christian. When people fabricate stories about someone’s faith to denigrate them politically, that’s an attack on people of all faiths. Make sure everyone you know is aware of this deception.” The website also provided quotes from the Boston Globe and Newsweek mentioning his father’s roots.
Since the election, however, with the threat of the rumors at least somewhat abated, the White House has been increasingly forthcoming about the president’s roots. Especially when reaching out to the
Muslim world. In his April 6 address to the Turkish Parliament, President Obama referenced how many “Americans have Muslims in their families or have lived in a Muslim majority country. I know, because I am one of them.”
He’s going so far as to proclaim the United States a Muslim country:
In an interview with Laura Haim on Canal Plus, a French television station, Mr. Obama noted that the United States also could be considered as “one of the largest Muslim countries in the world.”
The president said the United States and other parts of the Western world “have to educate ourselves more effectively on Islam.” “And one of the points I want to make is, is that if you actually took the number of Muslim Americans, we’d be one of the largest Muslim countries in the world,” Mr. Obama said. “And so there’s got to be a better dialogue and a better understanding between the two peoples.”
Not suprisingly, all this is generating quite a bit of blogospheric discussion. Most obviously, as half a dozen or more people have pointed out by now, America’s Muslim population, while sizable, still ranks somewhere around 38th in the world. So, he’s fudging a wee bit on that one.
As to the Muslim heritage thing, it mostly speaks to the difficulty of speaking to one audience while being heard by others. Obama is not a Muslim. His father was by birth, although not by practice. He went to Muslim and Catholic schools in his early youth but, by all indications, neither his mother nor he were/are particularly religious.
During the campaign, it was important for obvious reasons to downplay his thin Muslim ties in order to shoot down outright lies about them being peddled by those who wanted to see him defeated. Now, of course, he’s traveling to the Middle East and wishes to improve our relations with the Muslim world. Naturally, he wants to use his personal ties to the Muslim world (his father, his middle name, his upbringing in Indonesia, and so forth) as a means of showing his own tolerance and worldliness. The problem, of course, is that he can’t do this without opening a can of worms domestically.
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