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Was Barack Obama a Muslim? - Jan 14, 2008

The issue of Barack Obamas possible Muslim past has re-emerged with conflicting reports about the presidential candidates childhood in Islamic Indonesia.

The controversy was initially touched off in early 2007 when several media outlets reported that Obama had attended a radical madrasa, or Islamic school, when he lived in Indonesia.

Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs quickly countered with a statement: Senator Obama has never been a Muslim, was not raised a Muslim, and is a committed Christian.

The reports about the radical madrasa turned out to be false. But in March 2007, Gibbs amended his previous statement, telling the Los Angeles Times: Obama has never been a practicing Muslim, the key word being practicing.

Obama, his Kansas-born mother and Muslim stepfather moved to Jakarta, Indonesias capital, in 1967, and Obama lived there from ages 6 to 10.

The Times sent a reporter to Jakarta to investigate Obamas childhood years there, and published an article on March 16 that included these details:

         A close boyhood friend of Obama, Zulfin Adi, said Barack was a Muslim. He went to the mosque.

         Obamas first-grade teacher at a Catholic school, Israella Dharmawan, said: Barry (Baracks nickname) was Muslim. He was registered as a Muslim because his father was Muslim.

         In the third grade, Obama transferred to a public school, where he was also registered as a Muslim. At the school, Muslim students attended weekly religion lessons about Islam.

         In his autobiography, Dreams From My Father, Obama mentions studying the Koran and describes the public school as a Muslim school.

More recently, Middle East Forum director Daniel Pipes wrote on that his research led him to conclude that Obama was born a Muslim to a non-practicing Muslim father and for some years had a reasonably Muslim upbringing under the auspices of his Indonesian stepfather.

But on Jan. 2, the liberal organization Media Matters for America (MMfA) took issue with Pipes report, criticized him for relying too heavily on the Times article, which it claimed was disputed, in an effort to revive Obama-Muslim falsehood.

Media Matters cited a March 25 article by Kim Baker in the Chicago Tribune that challenged several assertions in the Times story. Barker wrote that boyhood friend Adi was not certain about his statements regarding Obamas childhood and that he only knew Obama for a few months.

The Media Matters Web posting stated: Additionally, the Tribune reported that interviews with dozens of former classmates, teachers, neighbors and friends show that Obama was not a regular practicing Muslim when he was in Indonesia.

Media Matters also said that Pipes did not note that Obamas Indonesian stepfather, Lolo Soetoro, has been described in the Tribune as much more of a free spirit than a devout Muslim.

Pipes fired back with a article on Jan. 7, titled Confirmed: Barack Obama Practiced Islam.

Pipes asked if any of the information from the Chicago Tribune article refutes my analysis, as MMfA contends. It raises questions about two details in the Los Angeles Times account the accuracy of the Catholic schools registration form and the reliability of Zulfin Adi as a source on Obama. But on the larger issue of Obamas religious practices during his Jakarta years, it confirms the Times account.

Pipes concludes: Therefore, what MMfA calls the Obama-Muslim falsehood is in fact confirmed by both articles as truthful and accurate.

And he adds: All this matters, for if Obama once was a Muslim, he is now what Islamic law calls a murtadd (apostate), an ex-Muslim converted to another religion who must be executed. Were he elected president of the Untied States, this status, clearly, would have large potential implications for his relationship with the Muslim world.




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