Barack Obama and Islam

Barack Obama giving a speech
Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons/CC-BY-SA-3.0

An online rumor circulating since January 2007 alleges that Barack Obama is secretly a Muslim and has lied to the American people about his religious affiliation, including his statement that he's been a devout Christian for most of his adult life. However, the evidence indicates this is false.

Analysis of Whether Barack Obama Is Muslim

Barack Obama has professed to be a devout Christian and spoken publicly of his "personal relationship with Jesus Christ," for more than 20 years. Is he actually a covert Muslim who has lied his entire adult life about his true religious affiliation?

No tangible proof is offered to that effect— no sightings of Obama attending a mosque, no photos of him reading the Koran, praying to Mecca, or observing Islamic holidays with his family. There is no evidence that Barack Obama has ever evinced a belief in, or commitment to, any other faith than Christianity.

The entire case, such as it is, rests on a confused and error-ridden recitation of Obama's upbringing and purported childhood influences. It also exploits some Americans' fear and deep mistrust of the Muslim faith.

Obama, Sr.

Claim: Obama's father, Barack Hussein Obama, Sr., was a "radical Muslim who migrated from Kenya to Jakarta, Indonesia."

This is false. Obama, Sr. wasn't a Muslim at all except during early childhood, let alone a "radical" Muslim. According to Obama, Jr., his father was "raised a Muslim" but lost his faith and had become a "confirmed atheist" by the time he attended college. Author Sally Jacobs (The Other Barack: The Bold and Reckless Life of President Obama's Father, New York: Public Affairs Books, 2011) writes that Obama, Sr. was exposed to Muslim teachings as a child but converted to Anglicanism around the age of 6, attended Christian schools into his teens, and was "a-religious" as an adult. Obama, Jr.'s parents separated not long after he was born; his father moving not to Jakarta but to the United States, where he attended Harvard. Eventually Obama, Sr. returned to Kenya.

Obama's Mother

Claim: Obama's mother went on to marry another Muslim named Lolo Soetoro who "educated his stepson as a good Muslim by enrolling him in one of Jakarta's Wahabbi schools."

This is partly true. When Obama's mother remarried, it was indeed to an Indonesian man named Lolo Soetoro, who his stepson later described as a "non-practicing" Muslim. But it was his secular mother who directly supervised his education, Obama has written, sending him to both Catholic and Muslim primary schools after the family moved to Jakarta.

There's nothing on record to indicate Obama attended a madrassa (Muslim religious school) run by Wahhabists. Furthermore, it's unlikely his mother would have chosen to expose him to such an extreme form of Islam given her stated abhorrence of religious closed-mindedness and her stated goal of giving her son a well-rounded education, including in matters of faith.

Update: CNN tracked down the Indonesian school in question, the Basuki School in Jakarta, which a deputy headmaster describes as a "public school" with no particular religious agenda. "In our daily lives, we try to respect religion, but we don't give preferential treatment," the headmaster told CNN. A former classmate of Obama's describes the school as "general," with students of many religious backgrounds attending. Obama entered the school at the age of 8 and attended for two years.

Obama Once a Muslim

Claim: "Obama takes great care to conceal the fact that he is a Muslim while admitting that he was once a Muslim."

This is false. Once a Muslim? When? Obama has never mentioned, let alone "admitted" being a Muslim at any point in his life. Yes, he lived in a Muslim country during part of his childhood, but there's no evidence he was literally raised in the Muslim faith, nor has he ever been a practitioner of Islam, so far as any public evidence shows.

See also: Is There a Photo of Barack Obama Praying at a Mosque?

Obama and the Koran

Claim: When Obama was sworn into office (as a Senator) he used the Koran instead of the Bible.

This is false. According to news accounts, Barack Obama brought his personal Bible to his 2005 Senate swearing-in ceremony, conducted by Vice-President Dick Cheney. Those alleging otherwise are apparently confusing Obama with Congressman Keith Ellison, who actually is a Muslim, and who posed for photographs with his hand on the Koran after being sworn into the House of Representatives on January 4, 2007.

Sample Email About Barack Obama as a Muslim

Here's sample email text contributed by Bill W. on Jan. 15, 2007:

Subject: Fwd: Be careful, be very careful.
Barack Hussein Obama was born in Honolulu, Hawaii to Barack Hussein Obama Sr. (a Black Muslim) of Nyangoma-Kogelo, Siaya District, Kenya, and Ann Dunham of Wichita, Kansas (a White atheist).
When Obama was two years old, his parents divorced and his father returned to Kenya. His mother married Lolo Soetoro -- a Muslim -- moving to Jakarta with Obama when he was six years old. Within six months he had learned to speak the Indonesian language. Obama spent "two years in a Muslim school, then two more in a Catholic school" in Jakarta. Obama takes great care to conceal the fact that he is a Muslim while admitting that he was once a Muslim, mitigating that damning information by saying that, for two years, he also attended a Catholic school.
Obama's father, Barack Hussein Obama, Sr. was a radical Muslim who migrated from Kenya to Jakarta, Indonesia. He met Obama's mother, Ann Dunham - a White atheist from Wichita, Kansas - at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Obama, Sr. and Dunham divorced when Barack, Jr. was two.
Obama's spinmeisters are now attempting to make it appear that Obama's introduction to Islam came from his father and that influence was temporary at best. In reality, the senior Obama returned to Kenya immediately following the divorce and never again had any direct influence over his son's education.
Dunham married another Muslim, Lolo Soetoro who educated his stepson as a good Muslim by enrolling him in one of Jakarta's Wahabbi schools. Wahabbism is the radical teaching that created the Muslim terrorists who are now waging Jihad on the industrialized world.
Since it is politically expedient to be a Christian when you are seeking political office in the United States, Obama joined the United Church of Christ to help purge any notion that he is still a Muslim.

Sources and Further Reading

  • The God Factor: Cathleen Falsani Interview with Barack Obama: Chicago Sun Times, April 5, 2004
  • CNN Debunks False Report About Obama: CNN, January 23, 2007
  • Obama Describes Faith Amid False Rumors. Associated Press, December 16, 2007
  • Debunked Insight Magazine and Fox News Smear Campaign. Obama campaign website, January  23, 2007
  • Barack Obama Takes His Seat in U.S. Senate. Jet, January 24, 2005
  • At Swearing in, Congressman Wants to Carry Koran. Outrage EnsuesChristian Science Monitor, December 7, 2006
  • The Other Barack: The Bold and Reckless Life of President Obama's Father: By Sally Jacobs (Public Affairs Books, 2011)
  • Dreams from My Father: By Barack Obama (Three Rivers Press, 2004)
  • The Audacity of Hope: By Barack Obama (Crown Publishers, 2006)