Is Sen. Barack Obama “is lying” when he insists that he has never prayed in a mosque and was never a Muslim? There is a prominent Middle East expert and journalist that says that he is.
Daniel Pipes, founder of the Middle East Forum think tank, says he fully accepts that Obama is a Christian now. But there is strong evidence that Obama received a Muslim upbringing during his years in Indonesia, Pipes said.
“It’s fine with me that he was a Muslim and a convert to Christianity,” Pipes told Newsmax. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal “is a convert from Hinduism. I have no problem with his conversion. What I have a problem with is that he’s lying” when he says he was never a Muslim.
Newsmax asked whether Pipes is alleging outright that Obama has lied about having a Muslim upbringing.
Pipes’ response: “The evidence suggests to me that he is lying, yes.”
Pipes told Newsmax, “It would start with the fact that his father was a Muslim — granted, not a practicing Muslim, but in the Muslim world, if your father is a Muslim, you’re a Muslim. His father named him Hussein, which is a name only given to Muslim babies. He went with his stepfather to a mosque. They celebrated certain Muslim holidays at the mosque together. He had knowledge of the Koran. He had knowledge of Muslim prayers. You put all this together, he was a Muslim.”
Pipes contends that a Nov. 12 post on Obama’s Web site headlined, “Barack Obama Is Not and Has Never Been a Muslim,” stated: “Obama never prayed in a mosque. He has never been a Muslim, was not raised a Muslim, and is a committed Christian.”
Today, that post bears the same headline, but does not include an assertion that Obama “never prayed in a mosque” and “has never been a Muslim, was not raised a Muslim.”
The page now bears a quote Obama made during the Jan. 15 debate on MSNBC: “In the Internet age, there are going to be lies that are spread all over the place. I have been victimized by these lies. Fortunately, the American people are, I think, smarter than folks give them credit for.”
The current post, which includes links intended to debunk any Muslim connection, is headlined “Obama Has Never Been A Muslim, And Is a Committed Christian”.
Several media outlets, including the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times, have reported on Obama’s schooling in Indonesia, where he lived from 1967 to 1971, which included Muslim religious studies.
It is known, for example, that Obama’s designation as a Muslim while attending a Catholic school may have simply reflected the fact that his stepfather, Lolo Soetoro, was Muslim.
Still, Obama was grouped with Muslim students at the school and engaged in weekly religious studies, including studying the Koran and learning Muslim prayers.
In 1970, Obama’s family moved and he was enrolled in a public school where children such as Obama who were identified as Muslim spent two hours a week studying Islam. [Editor’s Note: Read the Los Angeles Times report on Obama’s Muslim upbringing — Click Here Now.]
A March 2007 Chicago Tribune article by Kim Barker, which stated several accounts had “distorted the reality” of Obama’s years in Indonesia, reported that he did irregularly attend Muslim prayer services at the local mosque.
Obama’s third-grade teacher at the Catholic school, Fermina Katarina Sinaga, told Barker that Obama accompanied his stepfather to pray at the mosque, doing so “rarely.”
Pipes said Barker’s story bolsters his position that Obama was raised as a Muslim while he lived in Indonesia. His accounts of Obama’s upbringing have received a “very severe reaction from the left” and threats from some Muslims, he said.
“The Islamists murmur and threaten,” Pipes said, declining to specify the threats he has received.
Pipes sees a whopping double standard in how the mainstream media has reported on Obama’s past.
“It’s been quite fascinating to watch the careful picking over of Sarah Palin’s record, down to her library policies as mayor of Wasilla, and her possible false pregnancies, and so forth, an analysis that involved excruciating details in her case.”
He contrasts that to the “the general pass” the media has given Obama, whether over his career in the Illinois Senate, the Annenberg library papers, or his upbringing in Jakarta. Pipes said his reports have “simply been dismissed as untrue without any facts to counter it.”
The McCain campaign “has been very cautious about looking into Barack Obama at all,” said Pipes, adding that the GOP has demonstrated a general reluctance to raise questions about Obama’s past.
Pipes has posted four articles on his Web site, “DanielPipes.org”, defending his view that Obama was a Muslim. The articles include the assertion that “for some years (Obama) had a reasonably Muslim upbringing under the auspices of his Indonesian stepfather.”
As a measure of the interest in Obama’s background, Pipes’ articles have attracted close to half a million hits. One point of contention they raise: When someone is born of a Muslim father, do Muslims automatically consider him a Muslim?
A group of more than 50 scholars recently posted a statement on tabsir.net, a Web site dedicated to fostering an understanding of Islam, that seeks to refute that assertion. The statement maintains that distortions about Obama’s past are “part of an Islamophobic hate campaign that fuels prejudice against Americans who practice their Islamic faith and Muslims worldwide.”
Their statement says, “The vast majority of Muslims accept the Qur’anic message that there is no compulsion in Islam. Since Senator Obama was not raised as a Muslim, he cannot be held accountable for the religious status of his father.”
That assertion sounds logical to Western ears, but Pipes’ rejects it flatly.
“There is no doubt: It is a fact in Islam that the religion passes on through the father,” he told Newsmax. “And yet it’s denied as a falsehood by people who know better. They know better. It’s Islam 101.”
Supporting Pipes on that point is Shireen K. Burki, an adjunct professor of political science at the University of Mary Washington. Burki, who spent her childhood studying Islam at a school in Islamabad, Pakistan, has first-hand experience as the daughter of a Muslim father and a Christian mother.
“According to Islamic jurisprudence,” she wrote in a May article in the Christian Science Monitor, “children of a Muslim father — even an apparently nonpracticing one, such as Obama’s father, and irrespective of the mother’s faith — are automatically Muslims. Most Muslims around the world agree: A child of a Muslim father is a Muslim. Period.”
Given that Obama’s profession of Christianity is essentially uncontested, one might wonder whether it really matters whether Obama once was Muslim.
To many of the world’s approximately 1.4 billion Muslims, it apparently would matter a great deal. Experts on Islam generally agree that someone who is born a Muslim (in effect, someone who had a Muslim father), who later renounces Islam, is considered an apostate.
Burki writes, “Should Obama become U.S. commander in chief, there is a strong likelihood that al-Qaida’s media arm, As-Sahab, will exploit his background to argue that an apostate is leading the global war on terror (read: attacks against fellow Muslims). This perception would be leveraged to galvanize sympathizers into action.”
She suggests the apostate tag would be a powerful propaganda weapon that al-Qaida could wield to marginalize America’s Middle East allies, causing “enormous difficulties” in the war against terror.