Barack Obama religion conspiracy theories

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Allegations that Barack Obama secretly follows Islam, or that he is the anti-Christ foretold in Biblical prophecies, have been suggested since he campaigned for the U.S. Senate in 2004 and have proliferated since his election as President of the U.S. in 2008. As with conspiracy theories surrounding his citizenship status, these false claims are promoted by various fringe theorists and political opponents.[1][2] U.S. bloggers and talk radio hosts have particularly promoted the theories. Despite the fact that these assertions are false, belief of these claims in the public sphere have endured and, in some cases, even expanded during Obama's Presidency according to the Pew Research Center, with over one in seven Americans (including one third of conservative Republicans) labeling him as a Muslim.[3] [4]

Claims that Obama secretly practices Islam[edit]

Obama was baptized into the United Church of Christ (UCC) denomination and formally joined it in 1988.[5] He left the UCC in 2008 because of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright controversy.[6] He now worships with a Southern Baptist pastor at Camp David but has not become a formal member of any church since 2008.[7]

Though Obama is a practicing Christian,[8][9][10] and he was chiefly raised by his mother and her Christian parents, both his father Barack Obama, Sr., with whom he lived only as a baby, and his stepfather Lolo Soetoro with whom he lived during his early childhood were nominally Muslims. This familial connection to Islam, among other things, is the basis of a common claim lodged by conspiracy theorists that Obama secretly practices Islam.

According to the Los Angeles Times, false rumors saying that Obama was secretly a Muslim started during his campaign for the United States Senate in 2004 and had expanded through viral e-mails by 2006. The Times compared these rumors to earlier false rumors about 2000 presidential candidate John McCain fathering a dark-skinned child out of wedlock.[11] The rumors were subsequently promoted by conservative talk show hosts, including Michael Savage.[12] In December 2007 the Hillary Clinton campaign asked a volunteer county coordinator to step down after she forwarded an e-mail message which repeated the false rumor that Obama was Muslim.[13] In June 2008, New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, himself Jewish, spoke out to Jewish voters in Florida against false e-mail rumors which said that Obama was secretly a Muslim and did not support Israel. Bloomberg said: "I hope all of you will join me throughout this campaign in strongly speaking out against this fear mongering, no matter who you'll be voting for."[14]

Qur'an claim[edit]

A chain e-mail circulating during the presidential campaign claimed that Obama took his oath of office as a U.S. Senator in 2005 while placing his hand on a Qur'an rather than a Bible. This claim is false, as Obama was sworn into office using a Bible that he owned. The claim may have been inspired by a photo-op re-enactment of the 2007 swearing-in of U.S. Representative Keith Ellison of Minnesota, who used a Qur'an that had belonged to Thomas Jefferson.[15]

Madrasah claim[edit]

An early version of a rumor that Obama had "spent at least four years in a so-called madrassa, or Muslim seminary, in Indonesia"[12] was found in an article published by Insight on the News, a magazine that was published by News World Communications, an international media conglomerate then owned by the Unification Church. Insight on the News ceased publication soon after the incident. Its editor, Jeff Kuhner, claimed that a person working for the Clinton campaign had told him that the campaign was "preparing an accusation that her rival Senator Barack Obama had covered up a brief period he had spent in an Islamic religious school in Indonesia when he was six". Senator Clinton denied the allegations. When interviewed by The New York Times, Kuhner did not name the person said to be his reporter's source.[16]

Obama attended two schools during the four years he lived in Indonesia as a child (1967–1971). From the first grade until some time in the third grade he attended the Roman Catholic St. Francis Assisi School, where classes began and ended each day with Christian prayers. He was registered there as Muslim because of his stepfather's nominal religion. At some point during the third grade he transferred to State Elementary School Menteng 01, also known as Besuki School, for less than a year. Besuki is a secular public school. Students there wear Western clothing, and the Chicago Tribune described the school as "so progressive that teachers wore miniskirts and all students were encouraged to celebrate Christmas".[17][18][19]

Soon after Insight's story, CNN reporter John Vause visited State Elementary School Menteng 01 and found that each student received two hours of religious instruction per week in his or her own faith. Vause was told by Hardi Priyono, deputy headmaster of the school, "This is a public school. We don't focus on religion. In our daily lives, we try to respect religion, but we don't give preferential treatment."[20] Interviews by Nedra Pickler of the Associated Press found that students of all faiths have been welcome there since before Obama's attendance. Akmad Solichin, the vice principal of the school, told Pickler: "The allegations are completely baseless. Yes, most of our students are Muslim, but there are Christians as well. Everyone's welcome here ... it's a public school."[21]

Middle name "Mohammed" claim[edit]

One chain e-mail claimed incorrectly that President Obama's middle name is Mohammed or Muhammed. His actual middle name is Hussein.[22][23]

Claims that Obama is the Antichrist[edit]

During the 2008 presidential campaign, one chain e-mail accused Barack Obama of secretly being the biblical Antichrist, saying:

According to The Book of Revelations the anti-christ is: The anti-christ will be a man, in his 40s, of MUSLIM descent, who will deceive the nations with persuasive language, and have a MASSIVE Christ-like appeal... the prophecy says that people will flock to him and he will promise false hope and world peace, and when he is in power,he will destroy everything. Is it OBAMA??[24]

The word Antichrist does not appear in the Book of Revelation (though it does appear in 1 John and 2 John); the Book of Revelation instead refers to The Beast. The Book of Revelation never mentions the Beast's age, nor does it include any references to "Muslim descent", as the religion of Islam was not founded until hundreds of years after the book was written.[24]

During the 2008 presidential campaign, former comedian and political commentator Victoria Jackson made claims that "Obama bears traits that resemble the anti-Christ."[25]

The extreme right radical Westboro Baptist Church, based in Topeka, Kansas, frequently uses signs at their controversial protests claiming Obama to be an antichrist and runs a website dedicated to proving it, BeastObama.com.[26]

Political polls[edit]

Public opinion surveys carried out, beginning in 2008, have shown that a number of Americans believe that Obama is a Muslim. In March 2008, a survey conducted by Pew Research Center found that 10% of respondents believed that rumor. Those who were more likely to believe he is a Muslim included political conservatives (both Republicans and Democrats), people who had not attended college, people who lived in the Midwest or the South, and people in rural areas.[27]

A study conducted by the University of Georgia found that the percentage of Americans who believed that Obama is a Muslim remained constant at approximately 20% in September, October, and November 2008, despite frequent attempts by the media as well as the Obama campaign to correct this misconception. However, the study also showed that some people who had initially believed Obama to be a Christian later believed the rumor that he is a Muslim. The survey found that respondents who had shifted to the misconception were generally younger, less politically involved, less educated, more conservative, and more likely to believe in Biblical literalism. According to Professor Barry Hollander, "These are groups of people who are generally distrustful of the mainstream media...So therefore journalists telling them that this is not true could actually have the opposite effect and make them more likely to believe the rumor."[28]

In August 2010, a Pew Research poll showed that 18% of Americans and 30% of Republicans believed that Obama is a Muslim.[29]

In 2012, data from the aforementioned Pew Center found that the popularity of the misinformation had increased in some groups. Specifically, over one in seven Americans (including one third of conservative Republicans) labeled the President a Muslim. Haris Tarin of the Muslim Public Affairs Council remarked that the survey "shows there's a lot of fear-mongering and politicking in America".[3]

Barack Obama's response[edit]

I'm a Christian by choice. My family didn't – frankly, they weren't folks who went to church every week. And my mother was one of the most spiritual people I knew, but she didn't raise me in the church. So I came to my Christian faith later in life, and it was because the precepts of Jesus Christ spoke to me in terms of the kind of life that I would want to lead – being my brothers' and sisters' keeper, treating others as they would treat me. I think also understanding that Jesus Christ dying for my sins spoke to the humility we all have to have as human beings, that we're sinful and we're flawed and we make mistakes, and that we achieve salvation through the grace of God. But what we can do, as flawed as we are, is still see God in other people and do our best to help them find their own grace. That's what I strive to do. That's what I pray to do every day. I think my public service is part of that effort to express my Christian faith.

— President Barack Obama, September 27, 2010[30][31]

In person[edit]

Barack Obama has publicly responded to questions regarding his religion on more than one occasion. During a debate of Democratic presidential candidates on January 15, 2008, in Las Vegas, Nevada, the moderator, Brian Williams, asked Obama about the rumor that he was "trying to hide the fact that [he is] a Muslim". Obama responded that "the facts are: I am a Christian. I have been sworn in [to the US Senate] with a Bible." He then said "in the Internet age, there are going to be lies that are spread all over the place. I have been victimized by these lies."[32][33]

In an interview with NBC journalist Brian Williams on August 29, 2010, Williams asked Obama about a poll that said that 20% of the American public do not believe that he is a Christian or American born. Obama gave a similar answer to the one he gave in the January 2008 debate.[34] During the 2011 National Prayer Breakfast, the President stated, "My Christian faith then has been a sustaining force for me over these last few years, all the more so when Michelle and I hear our faith questioned from time to time".[3]

Institutional[edit]

In addition to Obama's personal responses, the 2008 Obama presidential campaign responded to the false claims made against him by people opposed to his candidacy by launching a website called "FightTheSmears.com".[35] One of the false claims counted by the website is that he is a Muslim and not a Christian.[36][37]

In October 2010 the White House announced that it was cancelling a stop at the Golden Temple during Obama's trip to India. The decision to cancel was received with disappointment by the Sikh community, and it was speculated that the decision was in response to a photo that was circulated during the 2008 campaign of Obama wearing Kenyan traditional wardrobe during a 2006 trip to Kenya.[38][39] The 2006 photo was used to raise doubts about Obama's religion.[40]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Graham, David A. (February 11, 2010). "Know Your Conspiracies". Newsweek. Archived from the original on April 19, 2010. Retrieved April 21, 2010. 
  2. ^ Henig, Jess; Emi Kolawole (January 10, 2008). "Sliming Obama – Dueling chain e-mails claim he's a radical Muslim or a 'racist' Christian. Both can't be right. We find both are false.". Factcheck.org. Archived from the original on April 21, 2010. Retrieved April 21, 2010. 
  3. ^ a b c Hayoun, Massoud (July 26, 2012). "US poll shows persistence of Obama Muslim lie". AFP. Retrieved June 13, 2014. 
  4. ^ Johnson, Luke (July 26, 2012). "17 Percent Of Registered Voters Think Obama Is Muslim, Pew Poll Finds". Pew Research Center (Huffington Post). Retrieved June 13, 2014. 
  5. ^ Kantor, Jodi (April 30, 2007). "Barack Obama's search for faith". The New York Times. Retrieved April 30, 2007. 
  6. ^ "Obama's church choice likely to be scrutinized". Associated Press. msnbc.com. November 17, 2008.
  7. ^ Sullivan, Amy (June 29, 2009). "The Obamas Find a Church Home—Away from Home". Time.
  8. ^ Marsden, Lee. "Religion, Identity and American Power in the Age of Obama." International Politics 48.2-3 (2011): 326-43. ProQuest Research Library. Web. 27 May 2012.
  9. ^ Jacobson, Gary C. "Legislative Success and Political Failure: The Publics Reaction to Barack Obamas Early Presidency." Presidential Studies Quarterly 41.2 (2011): 220-43. ProQuest Research Library. Web. 27 May 2012.
  10. ^ Miller, Lisa; Wolffe, Richard (July 12, 2008). "Finding His Faith: So much has been made about Barack Obama's religion. But what does he believe, and how did he arrive at those beliefs?". Newsweek. Archived from the original on April 13, 2010. Retrieved March 25, 2010. 
  11. ^ Smears 2.0, Los Angeles Times, December 3, 2007
  12. ^ a b Bacon Jr, Perry (November 29m 2007). "Foes Use Obama's Muslim Ties to Fuel Rumors About Him". The Washington Post. 
  13. ^ Clinton Campaign Volunteer Out Over False Obama Rumors, Washington Post, December 5, 2007
  14. ^ N.Y. Mayor urges Jewish voters to denounce Obama Muslim rumors, Associated Press, June 2, 2008
  15. ^ "Obama sworn in on his Bible". PolitiFact.com. December 20, 2007. Archived from the original on February 4, 2010. Retrieved March 8, 2010. 
  16. ^ "Anatomy of an anonymous political smear". International Herald Tribune. January 29, 2007. Retrieved February 18, 2008. 
  17. ^ Higgins, Andrew (August 19, 2010). "Indonesia Catholic School Promotes Ties to Obama". CBS News. Archived from the original on 2010-04-09. Retrieved August 19, 2010. 
  18. ^ "Obama attended an Indonesian public school". PolitiFact.com. December 20, 2007. Archived from the original on February 11, 2010. Retrieved March 8, 2010. 
  19. ^ Barker, Kim (March 25, 2007). "Obama madrassa myth debunked". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved September 4, 2010. 
  20. ^ "CNN debunks false report about Obama". CNN. January 22, 2007. Archived from the original on January 25, 2007. Retrieved January 26, 2007. 
  21. ^ Pickler, Nedra (January 24, 2007). "Obama challenges allegation about Islamic school". San Diego Union-Tribune. Retrieved February 10, 2008. 
  22. ^ "Not a Muslim; not Mohammed". PolitiFact.com. January 11, 2008. Archived from the original on February 10, 2010. Retrieved March 8, 2010. 
  23. ^ "No Muhammed or Mohammed in Obama's name". PolitiFact.com. May 2, 2008. Archived from the original on February 13, 2010. Retrieved March 8, 2010. 
  24. ^ a b "Complete distortion of the Bible". PolitiFact.com. April 2, 2008. Archived from the original on February 12, 2010. Retrieved March 8, 2010. 
  25. ^ Smith, Ben (October 28, 2008). "NRSC celeb thinks Obama may be anti-Christ, 'sooooo evil'". Politico. Retrieved September 3, 2010. 
  26. ^ BeastObama.com
  27. ^ "Obama Weathers the Wright Storm, Clinton Faces Credibility Problem.". Pew Research Center. March 27, 2008. 
  28. ^ Fahm, Sam (March 10, 2010). "Study explores belief in rumor that Obama is Muslim" (Press release). University of Georgia. Retrieved March 10, 2010. 
  29. ^ August 2010 Pew Research poll
  30. ^ Obama 'Christian By Choice': President Responds To Questioner by Charles Babington and Darlene Superville, AP, September 28, 2010
  31. ^ Video – President Obama: "I am a Christian By Choice" by ABC News, September 29, 2010
  32. ^ "The Democratic Debate in Las Vegas". New York Times. January 15, 2008. 
  33. ^ Jaffe, Ina (January 16, 2008). "Democrats Cordially Spar at Las Vegas Debate". National Public Radio. Retrieved September 4, 2010. 
  34. ^ Graham, David (August 30, 2009). "In NBC Interview, Obama Again Dismisses Belief That He's a Muslim With Joke". Archived from the original on September 2, 2010. Retrieved September 4, 2010. 
  35. ^ "Obama hits back at Internet slanders". Agence France-Press. June 12, 2008. 
  36. ^ "The Truth About Barack's Faith", Obama for America. Retrieved September 3, 2009.
  37. ^ Tumulty, Karen (June 12, 2008). "Will Obama's Anti-Rumor Plan Work?". Time. Archived from the original on November 2, 2008. Retrieved November 7, 2008. 
  38. ^ Polgreen, Lydia (October 19, 2010). "A Question of Appearances: Obama Will Bypass Sikh Temple on Visit to India". New York Times. 
  39. ^ Dykes, Brett Michael (October 20, 2010). "White House cancels Obama trip to Sikh temple over Muslim rumor concerns". Yahoo!. [dead link]
  40. ^ Gardner, David (February 26, 2008). "Obama in a turban: Barack accuses Hillary of smear campaign after circulating photos of him dressed as 'a Muslim'". Daily Mail (London). [dead link]

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