According to a Pew Research poll, 18 percent of Americans believe that President Barack Obama is a Muslim. This poll was taken prior to Obama’s recent comments supporting the right of Muslims to build a cultural center and mosque near the site of the World Trade Center attack.
In actuality, Obama is a self-described Christian who has had membership and attendance at the church controversial figure Rev. Jeremiah Wright preaches at. However, Obama does not refer to religion in his political activities, nor does he make it the center of his agendas. Obama has written about his father and extended family in Africa being Muslims, which might contribute to some people’s perception that the president is a Muslim.
In response, the White House is taking notice of this misperception of President Obama’s faith and recently responded that Obama “is a committed Christian” and that his “faith is a part of who he is, but not a part of what the public or the media is focused on everyday.”
Daniel Pipes is a scholar focusing on Middle East matters, and discussed on his blog evidence that Obama was raised in an Islamic culture and attended a school that taught Muslim principles. One reader of this blog, Leroy Jenkins, in response to such inquiries if Obama ever was Muslim, asked, “Who cares?” Jenkins also attributes this interest to racism, pointing out that “Muslims are often brown in hue.”
But certain individuals do care whether Obama is Muslim, or ever has been Muslim. On the website MuslimObama.com, individuals are concerned that this Muslim worldview would be anti-American and perhaps even anti-white. They point to Obama keeping his middle name, Hussein, as evidence of his Muslim tendencies. Such arguments have been linked to claims that Obama is not a natural born citizen, and thus not legitimately President.
The rumors of Obama being Muslim also reflect fears of Islamic extremist terrorist activities, and the sense that, in being at war with these terrorists, we are at war with the religion as well. This paranoia has led to the belief that Obama is too close to the Islamic world and doesn’t have Americans’ best interest in mind. It also reflects the Christian right agenda — that America is founded on a Christian foundation.
These fears are stoked by various media appealing to conservatives, such as Sean Hannity on Fox News, who claimed that “President Obama continues to turn his back on many of the Christian ideals that this country was founded on.”
With Democrats fighting to hold on to the House, and Obama at the lowest approval rating during his Presidency so far, only time will tell how these ongoing misconceptions about Obama’s religion will affect politics. The left has an opportunity to show how the principles of American freedom of religion also mean not being judged based on religious beliefs. With Mitt Romney, a Mormon, possibly running in the 2012 Presidential election, the right might consider how misperceptions about religious beliefs aren’t fair play for political fear-mongering.
“Media again stoke fears that Obama too close to Muslim world”, Media Matters
Oliver Knox, “More Americans Say Obama is Muslim,” Yahoo! News