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Was Barack Obama a Muslim ? Monday,March 23, 2009

Filed under: Middle east — nuanza @ 8:14 pm

“If I were a Muslim I would let you know,” Barack Obama has said, and I believe him. In fact, he is a practicing Christian, a member of the Trinity United Church of Christ. He is not now a Muslim.

But was he ever a Muslim or seen by others as a Muslim? More precisely, might Muslims consider him a murtadd (apostate), that is, a Muslim who converted to another religion and, therefore, someone whose blood may be shed?

Barack Obama at the Smoky Row Coffee Shop in Oskaloosa, Iowa.
The candidate for president of the United States has delivered two principal statements in reply. His campaign website carries a statement dated Nov. 12 with the headline, “Barack Obama Is Not and Has Never Been a Muslim,” followed by: “Obama never prayed in a mosque. He has never been a Muslim, was not raised a Muslim, and is a committed Christian.” Then, on Dec. 22, in the unlikely setting of the Smoky Row Coffee Shop in Oskaloosa, Iowa, as he munched on pumpkin pie and drank tea with four locals, Obama provided more detail took on this topic than before. When asked to explain his Muslim heritage, he replied:

  My father was from Kenya, and a lot of people in his village were Muslim. He didn’t practice Islam. Truth is he wasn’t very religious. He met my mother. My mother was a Christian from Kansas, and they married and then divorced. I was raised by my mother. So, I’ve always been a Christian. The only connection I’ve had to Islam is that my grandfather on my father’s side came from that country. But I’ve never practiced Islam. … For a while, I lived in Indonesia because my mother was teaching there. And that’s a Muslim country. And I went to school. But I didn’t practice. But what I do think it does is it gives me insight into how these folks think, and part of how I think we can create a better relationship with the Middle East and that would help make us safer is if we can understand how they think about issues.

These statements raise two questions: What is Obama’s true connection to Islam and what implications might this have for an Obama presidency?
Was Obama Ever a Muslim?

“I’ve always been a Christian,” said Obama, focusing on his own personal lack of practice of Islam as a child to deny any connection to Islam. But Muslims do not see practice as key. For them, that he was born to a line of Muslim males makes him born a Muslim. Further, all children born with an Arabic name based on the H-S-N trilateral root (Hussein, Hassan, and others) can be assumed to be Muslim, so they will understand Obama’s full name, Barack Hussein Obama, to proclaim him a born Muslim.

More: family and friends considered him as a child to be Muslim. In “Obama Debunks Claim About Islamic School,” Nedra Pickler of the Associated Press wrote on January 24, 2007, that

  Obama’s mother, divorced from Obama’s father, married a man from Indonesia named Lolo Soetoro, and the family relocated to the country from 1967-71. At first, Obama attended the Catholic school, Fransiskus Assisis, where documents showed he enrolled as a Muslim, the religion of his stepfather. The document required that each student choose one of five state-sanctioned religions when registering – Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Catholic or Protestant.

Asked about this, Obama communications director Robert Gibbs responded by indicating to Pickler that

  he wasn’t sure why the document had Obama listed as a Muslim. “Senator Obama has never been a Muslim.”

Two months later, Paul Watson of the Los Angeles Times (available online in a Baltimore Sun reprint) reported that the Obama campaign had retreated from that absolute statement and instead issued a more nuanced one: “Obama has never been a practicing Muslim.” The Times looked into the matter further and learned more about his Indonesian interlude:

  His former Roman Catholic and Muslim teachers, along with two people who were identified by Obama’s grade-school teacher as childhood friends, say Obama was registered by his family as a Muslim at both schools he attended. That registration meant that during the third and fourth grades, Obama learned about Islam for two hours each week in religion class.

  The childhood friends say Obama sometimes went to Friday prayers at the local mosque. “We prayed but not really seriously, just following actions done by older people in the mosque. But as kids, we loved to meet our friends and went to the mosque together and played,” said Zulfin Adi. … Obama’s younger sister, Maya Soetoro, said in a statement released by the campaign that the family attended the mosque only “for big communal events,” not every Friday.

Recalling Obama’s time in Indonesia, the Times account contains quotes that Obama “went to the mosque,” and that he “was Muslim.”

Summarized, available evidence suggests 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 step-father. At some point, he converted to Christianity. It appears false to state, as Obama does, “I’ve always been a Christian” and “I’ve never practiced Islam.” The campaign appears to be either ignorant or fabricating when it states that “Obama never prayed in a mosque.”
Implications of Obama’s Conversion

Obama’s conversion to another faith, in short, makes him a murtadd.

That said, the punishment for childhood apostasy is less severe than for the adult version. As Robert Spencer points out, “according to Islamic law an apostate male is not to be put to death if he has not reached puberty (cf. ‘Umdat al-Salik o8.2; Hidayah vol. II p. 246). Some, however, hold that he should be imprisoned until he is of age and then ‘invited’ to accept Islam, but officially the death penalty for youthful apostates is ruled out.”

On the positive side, were Obama prominently charged with apostasy, that would uniquely raise the issue of a Muslim’s right to change religion, taking a topic on the perpetual back-burner and placing it front and center, perhaps to the great future benefit of those Muslims who seek to declare themselves atheists or to convert to another religion.

But would Muslims seeing Obama as a murtadd significantly affect an Obama presidency? The only precedent to judge by is that of Carlos Saúl Menem, the president of Argentina from 1989 to 1999. The son of two Muslim Syrian immigrants and husband of another Syrian-Argentine, Zulema Fátima Yoma, Menem converted to Roman Catholicism. His wife said publicly that Menem left Islam for political reasons—because Argentinean law until 1994 required the president of the country to be a member of the Church. From a Muslim point of view, Menem’s conversion is worse than Obama’s, having been done as an adult. Nonetheless, Menem was not threatened or otherwise made to pay a price for his change of religion, even during his trips to majority-Muslim countries, Syria in particular.

It is one thing to be president of Argentina in the 1990s, however, and another to be president of the United States in 2009. One must assume that some Islamists would renounce him as a murtadd and would try to execute him. Given the protective bubble surrounding an American president, though, this threat presumably would not make much difference to his carrying out his duties.

More significantly, how would more mainstream Muslims respond to him, would they be angry at what they would consider his apostasy? That reaction is a real possibility, one that could undermine his initiatives toward the Muslim world.


Jan. 7, 2008 update: For a follow-up to this article, please see “Confirmed: Barack Obama Practiced Islam.” In it, I reply to a challenge to the above analysis from Media Matters for America. The article also spurred several hundred comments by readers.

Apr. 29, 2008 update: I provide a streamlined version of the above, with more evidence, at “Barack Obama’s Muslim Childhood.”

May 12, 2008 update: Edward N. Luttwak picks up on my theme above in his article today in the New York Times, “President Apostate?” Writes Luttwak: “As the son of the Muslim father, Senator Obama was born a Muslim under Muslim law as it is universally understood. It makes no difference that, as Senator Obama has written, his father said he renounced his religion. Likewise, under Muslim law based on the Koran his mother’s Christian background is irrelevant.” He concludes that Obama’s election “would compromise the ability of governments in Muslim nations to cooperate with the United States in the fight against terrorism, as well as American efforts to export democracy and human rights abroad.”

Comment: This goes further than I argued above, where I only suggest the “real possibility” that his religious background “could undermine his initiatives toward the Muslim world.” Implied is the real possibility that it will not. It is much too early to know for sure.

source: http://www.meforum.org/pipes/5286/was-barack-obama-a-muslim

pic: http://cristyli.blogspot.com


Barack Obama’s Middle East Policy

Filed under: Middle east — nuanza @ 7:49 pm

In General

At 46, Democratic Sen. Barack Hussein Obama of Illinois is the youngest of the 16 Republican and Democratic candidates for the 2008 presidency. (The next-youngest are Mike Huckabee, the 52-year-old GOP candidate and former Arkansas governor, and John Edwards, the 54-year-old Democrat, former North Carolina senator and vice presidential candidate in 2004). Obama is also a first-term senator with just two years’ service (he previously served eight years as a state senator in Illinois). His father is black, making Obama the only black senator currently in the Senate. Obama’s middle name, which means “the good, handsome one,” is of Arab origin, making him the only presidential candidate even remotely connected to anything Middle Eastern or Arab, although his father is actually Kenyan.

With so many unconventional characteristics in his profile, Obama has made conscious efforts to appear nothing like a dove, especially when it comes to Middle Eastern issues. At times, especially in his discussions of the “war on terror,” Iran and the U.S. military, he can sound more hawkish than Hillary Clinton or the rest of the Democratic field, and as hawkish as some Republicans.

The often-repeated criticism of Obama as long on rhetoric and short on ideas is more often justified than not. Obama also tries to have it both ways on many issues—withdrawing from Iraq but not entirely, negotiating with Iran but with bombing Iran always in mind, pledging to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict but firmly maintaining an Israel-first approach.

On Iraq

Obama frequently refers to the fact that unlike Sens. Clinton, Edwards, Joe Biden, Christopher Dodd and most of the GOP candidates, he did not support Congress’ 2002 authorization for war on Iraq. Obama, however, was an Illinois state senator at the time. Still, he’s taken a decidedly and consistently anti-war stance based on the assumption that Iraq’s Shiites and Sunnis are more likely to settle their differences without an American presence than under American occupation—especially if they are pressured into doing so by the threat of an imminent American withdrawal. “And the only effective way to apply this pressure,” Obama wrote in Foreign Affairs, “is to begin a phased withdrawal of U.S. forces, with the goal of removing all combat brigades from Iraq by March 31, 2008—a date consistent with the goal set by the bipartisan Iraq Study Group.” Nevertheless, Obama is opposed to a complete withdrawal: “We should leave behind only a minimal over-the-horizon military force in the region to protect American personnel and facilities, continue training Iraqi security forces, and root out al Qaeda.” Yet Obama wants to “make clear that we seek no permanent bases in Iraq.”

On Iran

Obama won plaudits and criticism for two major stands on Iran. He said the nuclear option against Iran should not be on the table even as the conventional-attack option does remain there. And he maintains that negotiating directly with Iran is a must: “Although we must not rule out using military force,” Obama wrote, “we should not hesitate to talk directly to Iran. Our diplomacy should aim to raise the cost for Iran of continuing its nuclear program by applying tougher sanctions and increasing pressure from its key trading partners. The world must work to stop Iran’s uranium-enrichment program and prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.” In exchange, Obama offers diplomatic relations with Iran, “economic engagement” and “security assurances,” removing the notion of “regime change” from America’s Iran policy.

On Terrorism

Obama is an unabashed hawk on the war on terror, as well as on further building up the U.S. military (he wants to add 65,000 soldiers to the army and 27,000 marines). “To defeat al Qaeda,” he says, “I will build a twenty-first-century military and twenty-first-century partnerships as strong as the anticommunist alliance that won the Cold War to stay on the offense everywhere from Djibouti to Kandahar.” The comparison of the war on al-Qaeda to the Cold War is a page out of the foreign policy books of GOP candidates John McCain and Rudolph Giuliani. Obama adds: “I will not hesitate to use force, unilaterally if necessary.” Unlike his willingness to negotiate with Iran, Obama does not say that he would negotiate with al-Qaeda’s leadership. Nor does he say whether he would use pre-emptive force, following the Bush doctrine of pre-emptive attack. 

source:  http://middleeast.about.com


Israel VS Palestine Monday,January 12, 2009

Filed under: Middle east — nuanza @ 2:29 pm

Israelis Vs. Palestinians
Today we are well into the current strife between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Each side dominated by an Old-School hard-liner .. Each side running on fears and past injustices. BOTH sides unsure of where to go or how to proceed without “Losing”.
Unfortunately .. they don’t seem to realize .. the longer this goes on the more they are already LOSING!
Life Goes On
Life goes on .. when we let it. Today, in this age of uncertain tomorrows, we all feel both helpless and needing to help. We look across the land to our brothers and sisters .. peoples faced with impossible questions that must be answered .. NOW! .. or else. To all those facing such impossible odds and insurmountable obstacles .. Remember life. Let it blossom. Let it grow. Choose life above all else. Above ALL else!
You can tear down a wall, crush a car .. or a people. You can blow a thousand hopes into nothingness with a single switch. But NEVER can you replace a life. Never. When it is gone there is no more life here. Perhaps, on the other side, there is more. I do not know. But I do know that the lives that are no more are missed. Mourned .. and needlessly so.
What has been spent in human suffering and blood has been wasted. For today we face no better an outlook than we did many years ago. I say it is time to stop wasting this precious resource of life. Stop it now. And let LIFE go on.
What Is Their Goal?
I am forced to look down the road .. into the future .. to help decide for myself how I should feel about both sides in this conflict.
I must state up front that I am employed by a company based in Israel. I am not Jewish, but I have always felt a certain kinship with Israel, no doubt fomented by my country’s firm support for that State.
But even so, there appears to be no “Right” and plenty of “Wrong” in this conflict. Both sides seem “dirty” in some ways, and morally justified in others. So, I look instead at what each side wants to help me gain a foothold on this slippery slope of contention.
To my knowledge, Israel seeks only to free themselves from the random violence they have been subjected to. Mr. Sharon has no doubt instigated some of the current unrest by continuing to settle land within the Palestinian borders, but by-and-large his people do not seem to wish harm to the Palestinians .. only an end to the terror.
On the other hand, the stated goals of the Palestinian Authority is nothing less than the total destruction of the state of Israel and all of her inhabitants. They will not stand-down until the very last Israeli, and maybe the last Jew, is dead and buried beneath their feet.
One strives for peace .. one strives for destruction. Based on these precepts adopted by each “side” I can make no sound choice other than to side with Israel. Am I happy with what they are doing? No. Who could be? Never is the taking of life “right’. It may at times be the only choice. But it strikes me as rather asinine that either side could claim a moral justification for killing in this case.
How Does It End?

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