Hope of Israel Ministries (Ecclesia of YEHOVAH):
The True Story of Barack Hussein Obama -- Decide for Yourself!
Editor's Note: In this article, Middle East and Islam specialist Daniel Pipes takes a look into Barack Obama's early Muslim connections by noting the president's autobiographical inaccuracies.
by Daniel Pipes
Part 1-- Obama's Muslim Childhood
President Obama has come out swinging against his Republican rival, sponsoring television advertisements that ask, "What is Mitt Romney hiding?" The allusion is to such relatively minor matters as Mr. Romney's prior tax returns, the date he stopped working for Bain Capital and the nonpublic records from his service heading the Salt Lake City Olympics and as governor of Massachusetts. Mr. Obama has defended his demands that Mr. Romney release more information about himself, declaring in August that "the American people have assumed that if you want to be president of the United States that your life's an open book when it comes to things like your finances." Liberals such as Paul Krugman of the New York Times enthusiastically endorse this focus on Mr. Romney's personal history.
If President Obama and his supporters wish to focus on biography, of course, that is a game two can play. Already, the temperate, mild-mannered Mr. Romney has criticized Mr. Obama's re-election campaign as "based on falsehood and dishonesty," and a television ad went further, asserting that Mr. Obama "doesn't tell the truth."
A focus on openness and honesty is likely to hurt Mr. Obama far more than Mr. Romney. Mr. Obama remains the mystery candidate with an autobiography full of gaps and even fabrications. For example, to sell his autobiography in 1991, Mr. Obama claimed that he "was born in Kenya." He lied about never having been a member and candidate of the 1990s Chicago socialist New Party. When Stanley Kurtz produced evidence to establish that he was a member, Mr. Obama's flacks smeared and dismissed Mr. Kurtz. Mr. Obama's 1995 autobiography, Dreams from My Father, contains a torrent of inaccuracies and falsehoods about his maternal grandfather, his father, his mother, his parents' wedding, his stepfather's father, his high school friend, his girlfriend, Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn, and the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. As Victor Davis Hanson put it, "If a writer will fabricate the details about his own mother's terminal illness and quest for insurance, then he will probably fudge on anything."
Into this larger pattern of mendacity about his past life arises the question of Mr. Obama's discussion of his faith, perhaps the most singular and outrageous of his lies.
Asked about the religion of his childhood and youth, Mr. Obama offers contradictory answers. He finessed a March 2004 question, "Have you always been a Christian?" by replying: "I was raised more by my mother and my mother was Christian." But in December 2007, he belatedly decided to give a straight answer: "My mother was a Christian from Kansas. I was raised by my mother. So, I've always been a Christian." In February 2009, however, he offered a completely different account:
"I was not raised in a particularly religious household. I had a father who was born a Muslim but became an atheist, grandparents who were non-practicing Methodists and Baptists, and a mother who was skeptical of organized religion. I didn't become a Christian until I moved to the South Side of Chicago after college."
He further elaborated on this answer in September 2010, saying, "I came to my Christian faith later in life."
Which is it? Has Mr. Obama "always been a Christian" or did he "become a Christian" after college? Self-contradiction on so fundamental a matter of identity, when added to the general questioning about the accuracy of his autobiography, raises questions about veracity. Would someone telling the truth say such varied and opposite things about himself? Inconsistency is typical of fabrication: When making things up, it's hard to stick with the same story. Mr. Obama appears to be hiding something. Was he the areligious child of irreligious parents? Or was he always a Christian? A Muslim? Or was he, in fact, something of his own creation -- a Christian Muslim?
Mr. Obama provides some information on his Islamic background in his two books, Dreams from My Father and The Audacity of Hope (2006). In 2007, when Hillary Rodham Clinton was still the favored Democratic candidate for president, a number of reporters dug up information about Mr. Obama's time in Indonesia. His statements as president have provided important insights into his mentality. The major biographies of Mr. Obama, however, whether friendly (such as those by David Maraniss, David Mendell and David Remnick) or hostile (such as those by Jack Cashill, Jerome R. Corsi, Dinesh D'Souza, Aaron Klein, Edward Klein and Stanley Kurtz), devote little attention to this topic.
I shall establish his having been born and raised a Muslim, provide confirming evidence from recent years, survey the perceptions of him as a Muslim, and place this deception in the larger context of Mr. Obama's autobiographical fictions.
To begin with, Barack Obama readily acknowledges that his paternal grandfather, Hussein Onyango Obama, converted to Islam. Indeed, Dreams (Page 407) contains a long quote from his paternal grandmother explaining the grandfather's reasons for doing so: Christianity's ways appeared to be "foolish sentiment" to him, "something to comfort women," and so he converted to Islam, thinking "its practices conformed more closely to his beliefs" (Page 104). Barack Obama readily told this to all comers: When asked by a barber (Page 149), "You a Muslim?" for example, he replied, "Grandfather was."
Mr. Obama presents his parents and stepfather as nonreligious. He notes in Audacity (Pages 204-5), that his "father had been raised a Muslim" but was a "confirmed atheist" by the time he met Barack's mother, who, in turn, "professed secularism." His stepfather, Lolo Soetoro, "like most Indonesians, was raised a Muslim," though he was a non-practicing, syncretic one who "followed a brand of Islam that could make room for the remnants of more ancient animist and Hindu faiths" (Dreams, Page 37).
As for himself, Mr. Obama acknowledges numerous connections to Islam but denies being a Muslim. "The only connection I've had to Islam is that my grandfather on my father's side came from that country," he declared in Dec. 2007. "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." Likewise, he said in February 2008: "I have never been a Muslim other than my name and the fact that I lived in a populous Muslim country for four years when I was a child, I have very little connection to the Islamic religion." Note his unequivocal statement here: "I have never been a Muslim." Under the headline, "Barack Obama is not and has never been a Muslim," Mr. Obama's first presidential campaign website was even more emphatic in November 2007, stating that "Obama never prayed in a mosque. He has never been a Muslim, was not raised a Muslim, and is a committed Christian."
These emphatic statements notwithstanding, much points to Mr. Obama's having been a Muslim.
Part 2 -- Barry Was Muslim. Teachers and Friends Say Obama Studied Koran in School
Many pieces of evidence argue for Barack Obama having been born and raised a Muslim:
(1) Islam is a patrilineal religion: In Islam, the father passes his faith to the children, and when a Muslim man has children with a non-Muslim woman, Islam considers those children Muslim. Mr. Obama's grandfather and father having been Muslims -- the extent of their piety matters not at all -- means that in Muslim eyes, Mr. Obama was born a Muslim.
(2) Arabic forenames based on the H-S-N trilateral root: All such names (Husayn or Hussein, Hasan, Hassan, Hassanein, Ahsan and others) are exclusively bestowed on Muslim babies. (The same goes for names based on the H-M-D root.) Mr. Obama's middle name, Hussein, explicitly proclaims him born a Muslim.
(3) Registered as Muslim at SD Katolik Santo Fransiskus Asisi: Mr. Obama was registered at a Catholic school in Jakarta as "Barry Soetoro." A surviving document correctly lists him as born in Honolulu on Aug. 4, 1961. In addition, it lists him as having Indonesian nationality and Muslim religion.
(4) Registered as Muslim at SD Besuki: Although Besuki (also known as SDN 1 Menteng) is a public school, Mr. Obama curiously refers to it in The Audacity of Hope (Page 154) as "the Muslim school" he attended in Jakarta. Its records have not survived, but several journalists (Haroon Siddiqui of the Toronto Star, Paul Watson of the Los Angeles Times and David Maraniss of The Washington Post) all have confirmed that there, too, he was registered as a Muslim.
(5) Islamic class at Besuki: Mr. Obama mentions (Audacity, Page 154) that at Besuki, "the teacher wrote to tell my mother that I made faces during Koranic studies." Only Muslim students attended the weekly two-hour Koran class, Mr. Watson reports:
"Two of his teachers, former Vice Principal Tine Hahiyari and third-grade teacher Pak Effendi, said they remember clearly that at this school, too, he was registered as a Muslim, which determined what class he attended during weekly religion lessons. 'Muslim students were taught by a Muslim teacher, and Christian students were taught by a Christian teacher,' Mr. Effendi said."
Andrew Higgins of The Washington Post quotes Rully Dasaad, a former classmate, saying that Barack Obama horsed around in class and, during readings of the Koran, got "laughed at because of his funny pronunciation." Mr. Maraniss learned that the class included not only studying "how to pray and how to read the Koran" but also actually praying in the Friday communal service on the school grounds.
(6) Mosque attendance: Maya Soetoro-Ng, Mr. Obama's younger half-sister, said her father (Mr. Obama's stepfather) attended the mosque "for big communal events." Kim Barker of the Chicago Tribune found that "Obama occasionally followed his stepfather to the mosque for Friday prayers."
The childhood friends say Mr. 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, who described himself as among Mr. Obama's closest childhood friends. Sometimes, when the muezzin sounded the call to prayer, Lolo and Barry would walk to the makeshift mosque together, Mr. Adi said. "His mother often went to the church, but Barry was Muslim. He went to the mosque," Mr. Adi said.
(7) Muslim clothing: Mr. Adi recalls about Mr. Obama, "I remember him wearing a sarong." Likewise, Mr. Maraniss found not only that "his classmates recalled that Barry wore a sarong," but written exchanges indicating that he continued to wear this garment in the United States. This fact has religious implications because in Indonesian culture, only Muslims wear sarongs.
(8) Piety: Mr. Obama said that in Indonesia, he "didn't practice" Islam, an assertion that inadvertently acknowledges his Muslim identity by implying he was a nonobservant Muslim. But several of those who knew him contradict this recollection. Rony Amir described Mr. Obama as "previously quite religious in Islam." A former teacher, Tine Hahiyary, quoted in the Kaltim Post, said the future president took part in advanced Islamic religious lessons: "I remember that he had studied mengaji." In the context of Southeast Asian Islam, mengaji Koran means to recite the Koran in Arabic, a difficult task denoting advanced study.
In summary, the record points to Barack Obama having been born a Muslim to a non-practicing Muslim father and having lived for four years in a fully Muslim milieu under the auspices of his Muslim Indonesian stepfather. For these reasons, those who knew Mr. Obama in Indonesia considered him a Muslim.
Part 3 -- Obama: My Muslim Faith
Several statements by Barack Obama in recent years point to his Muslim childhood.
(1) Robert Gibbs, campaign communications director for President Obama's first presidential race, asserted in January 2007: "Sen. Obama has never been a Muslim, was not raised a Muslim, and is a committed Christian who attends the United Church of Christ in Chicago." But he backtracked in March 2007, asserting that Mr. Obama "has never been a practicing Muslim." By focusing on the practice as a child, the campaign is raising a nonissue, for Muslims (like Jews) do not consider practice central to religious identity. Mr. Gibbs added, according to a paraphrase by Paul Watson of the Los Angeles Times, that "as a child, Obama had spent time in the neighborhood's Islamic center." Clearly, "the neighborhood's Islamic center" is a euphemism for a mosque. Spending time there again points to Mr. Obama's being a Muslim.
(2) He may have made faces and horsed around in Koran class, but Mr. Obama learned how to pray the salat, a form of ritual worship, in religion class. Pak Effendi, his former teacher at Besuki, his school in Jakarta, Indonesia, recalls that he would "join the other pupils for Muslim prayers." Praying the salat in and of itself made Mr. Obama a Muslim. Furthermore, he still proudly retains knowledge from that long-ago class. In March 2007, Nicholas D. Kristof of the New York Times witnessed as Mr. Obama "recalled the opening lines of the Arabic call to prayer, reciting them [to Mr. Kristof] with a first-rate accent." Mr. Obama recited not the salat itself but the adhan, the call to prayer (typically chanted from minarets). The second and third lines of the adhan constitute the Islamic declaration of faith, the shahada, the very utterance of which makes one a Muslim. The full adhan in its Sunni iteration (skipping the repetitions) goes as follows:
God [Allah] is the
I testify that there is no deity but God [Allah].
I testify that Muhammad is the messenger of God [Allah].
Come to prayer.
Come to success.
God [Allah] is the greatest.
There is no deity except God [Allah].
In the eyes of Muslims, reciting the adhan in class in 1970 made Mr. Obama a Muslim then -- and doing so again for a journalist in 2007 once again made Mr. Obama a Muslim.
(3) In a conversation with George Stephanopoulos in September 2008, Mr. Obama spoke of "my Muslim faith," only changing that to "my Christian faith" after Mr. Stephanopoulos interrupted and corrected him. It's implausible that someone would blurt out "my Muslim faith" unless some basis existed for such a mistake.
(4) When addressing Muslim audiences, Mr. Obama uses specific Muslim phrases that recall his Muslim identity. He addressed audiences in Cairo (in June 2009) and Jakarta (in Nov. 2010) with "as-salamu alaykum," a greeting that he, who went to Koran class, knows is reserved for one Muslim addressing another. In Cairo, he also deployed several other pious terms that signal to Muslims that he is one of them:
"The Holy Koran" (a term mentioned five times): an exact translation from the standard Arabic reference to the Islamic scripture, al-Qur'an al-Karim.
"The right path": a translation of the Arabic "as-sirat al-mustaqim," along which Muslims ask God [Allah] to guide them each time they pray.
"I have known Islam on three continents before coming to the region where it was first revealed": Non-Muslims do not refer to Islam as "revealed."
"The story of Isra, when Moses, Jesus and Muhammad joined in prayer": This Koranic tale of a night journey establishes the leadership of Muhammad over all other holy figures, including Jesus.
"Moses, Jesus and Muhammad, peace be upon them": a translation of the Arabic "alayhim as-salam," which pious Muslims say after mentioning the names of dead prophets other than Muhammad. (A different salutation, "sall Allahu alayhi wa-sallam," "May God [Allah] honor him and grant him peace," properly follows Muhammad's name, but this phrase is hardly ever said in English.)
Mr. Obama's saying "Peace be upon them" has other implications beyond being a purely Islamic turn of phrase never employed by Arabic-speaking Jews and Christians. First, it contradicts what a self-professed Christian believes because it implies that Jesus, like Moses and Muhammad, is dead. Christian theology holds him to have been resurrected, to be living and the immortal Son of God. Second, including Muhammad in this blessing implies reverence for him, something as outlandish as a Jew talking about Jesus Christ. Third, a Christian would more naturally seek peace from Jesus than wish peace on him.
(5) Mr. Obama's overblown and inaccurate description of Islam in the United States smacks of an Islamist mentality. He drastically overestimates both the number and the role of Muslims in the United States, announcing in June 2009 that "if you actually took the number of Muslims [sic] Americans, we'd be one of the largest Muslim countries in the world." Hardly: According to one listing of Muslim populations, the United States, with about 2.5 million Muslims, ranks about 47th-largest. Three days later, he gave a bloated estimate of "nearly 7 million American Muslims in our country today" and bizarrely announced that "Islam has always been a part of America's story. ...[S]ince our founding, American Muslims have enriched the United States." Mr. Obama also announced the dubious fact in April 2009 that many Americans "have Muslims in their families or have lived in a Muslim-majority country." When referring to religious communities in the United States, Mr. Obama always gives first mention to Christians but second place varies between Jews and Muslims, most notably in his January 2009 inaugural speech: "The United States is a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus and nonbelievers." Mr. Obama so wildly overestimates the Muslim role in American life that it suggests an Islamic supremacist mentality specific to someone coming from a Muslim background.
In the aggregate, these statements confirm the evidence from Mr. Obama's childhood that he was born and raised a Muslim.
Part 4 -- His Middle Name is Hussein, Muslims Believe Obama is One of Them
Several people who know Barack Obama well perceive him as Muslim. Most remarkably, his half-sister, Maya Soetoro-Ng, has stated: "My whole family was Muslim." Her whole family, obviously, includes her half-brother, Barack.
In June 2006, President Obama related how, after a long religious evolution, he "was finally able to walk down the aisle of Trinity United Church of Christ on 95th Street in the Southside of Chicago one day and affirm my Christian faith" with an altar call. But when his pastor at Trinity United, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, was asked (by author Edward Klein in The Amateur, Page 40), "Did you convert Obama from Islam to Christianity?" Mr. Wright finessed the question, whether out of ignorance or discretion, replying enigmatically: "That's hard to tell." Note that he did not reject out of hand the idea that Mr. Obama had been a Muslim.
Mr. Obama's 30-year-old half-brother, George Hussein Onyango Obama, who met him twice, told an interviewer in March 2009, "He may be behaving differently due to the position he is in, but on the inside, Barack Obama is Muslim."
More generally, Muslims cannot shake the sense that under his proclaimed Christian identity, Mr. Obama truly is one of them. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, prime minister of Turkey, has said Hussein is a Muslim name. Muslim discussions of Mr. Obama sometimes mention his middle name as a code, with no further comment needed. A conversation in Beirut, quoted in the Christian Science Monitor, captures the puzzlement. "He has to be good for Arabs because he is a Muslim," observed a grocer. "He's not a Muslim, he's a Christian," replied a customer. No, said the grocer, "He can't be a Christian. His middle name is Hussein." The name is proof positive.
The American Muslim writer Asma Gull Hasan wrote in My Muslim President Obama:
"I know President Obama is not Muslim, but I am tempted nevertheless to think that he is, as are most Muslims I know. In a very unscientific oral poll, ranging from family members to Muslim acquaintances, many of us feel that we have our first American Muslim president in Barack Hussein Obama. Since Election Day, I have been part of more and more conversations with Muslims in which it was either offhandedly agreed that Obama is Muslim or enthusiastically blurted out. In commenting on our new president, 'I have to support my fellow Muslim brother,' would slip out of my mouth before I had a chance to think twice. 'Well, I know he's not really Muslim,' I would quickly add. But if the person I was talking to was Muslim, they would say, 'yes, he is.' "
By way of explanation, Ms. Hasan mentions Mr. Obama's middle name. She concludes: "Most of the Muslims I know (me included) can't seem to accept that Obama is not Muslim."
If Muslims get these vibes, not surprisingly, so does the American public. Five polls in 2008-09 by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press asked, "Do you happen to know what Barack Obama's religion is?" They found a consistent 11 percent to 12 percent of registered American voters averring that he's really a Muslim, with much larger percentages among Republicans and evangelicals. This number increased to 18 percent in an August 2010 Pew survey. A March 2012 poll found about half the likely Republican voters in both Alabama and Mississippi saw Mr. Obama as a Muslim. In Pew's June-July 2012 survey, 17 percent said Mr. Obama is a Muslim and 31 percent said they did not know his religion; just 49 percent identified him as a Christian. This points to an even split between those who say Mr. Obama is a Christian and those who do not.
That those who see him as Muslim also overwhelmingly disapprove of his job performance points to a correlation in their minds between Muslim identity and a failed presidency. That such a substantial portion of the public persists in this view points to a bedrock of reluctance to take Mr. Obama at his word about being a Christian. This in turn reflects the widespread sense that Mr. Obama has played fast and loose with his biography.
Part 5 -- Obama's dueling beliefs expose moral failings
From Muslim to Christian, he continues to dissemble about his past.
While attending school in Indonesia, Barack Obama famously attended Koranic classes. Less known, as he recalled in March 2004, was his "studying the Bible and catechisms" at Santo Fransiskus Assisi Catholic school. As each of those classes was intended just for believers, attending both was irregular. Several of his former teachers there confirm President Obama's recollection. Here are three of them on this topic:
Mr. Obama's first-grade teacher at Assisi, Israella Dharmawan, recalled to Paul Watson of the Los Angeles Times: "At that time, Barry was also praying in a Catholic way, but Barry was Muslim. He was registered as a Muslim because his father, Lolo Soetoro, was Muslim."
Mr. Obama's former third-grade teacher at the Besuki public school, Pak Effendi, told Anne Barrowclough of the Times of London that the school had pupils of many faiths and recalled how students attended classes on their own faiths -- except for Mr. Obama, who alone insisted on attending both Christian and Islamic classes. He did so even against the wishes of his Christian mother: "His mother did not like him learning Islam, although his father was a Muslim. Sometimes she came to the school; she was angry with the religious teacher and said, 'Why did you teach him the Koran?' But he kept going to the classes because he was interested in Islam."
An administrator at Besuki, Akhmad Solikhin, expressed bafflement at Mr. Obama's religion to an Indonesian newspaper, the Kaltim Post, on Jan. 27, 2007: "He indeed was registered as Muslim, but he claims to be Christian." (The translation was provided by "an American expatriate in Southeast Asia," and the quotation was edited for clarity.)
This double religiosity, admittedly, is being discussed at a time when Mr. Obama is an international figure and the nature of his religious affiliation had taken on political overtones. Still, that three figures from his Indonesian past independently made this same point is striking and demonstrates the complexity of Mr. Obama's personal development. It also raises the inconclusive but intriguing possibility that Mr. Obama, even at the tender ages of 6 through 10, sought to combine his maternal and paternal religions into a personal syncretic whole, presenting himself as both Christian and Muslim. In subtle ways, he still does just that.
In conclusion, available evidence suggests that Mr. Obama was born and raised a Muslim and retained a Muslim identity until his late 20s. Child to a line of Muslim males, given a Muslim name, registered as a Muslim in two Indonesian schools, he read the Koran in religion class, still recites the Islamic declaration of faith and speaks to Muslim audiences like a fellow believer. Between his non-practicing Muslim father, his Muslim stepfather and his four years of living in a Muslim milieu, he was seen by others and saw himself as a Muslim.
This is not to say that he was a practicing Muslim or that he remains a Muslim today -- much less an Islamist -- nor that his Muslim background significantly influences his political outlook (which is typical of an American leftist). Nor is there a problem about his conversion from Islam to Christianity. The issue is that Mr. Obama has specifically and repeatedly lied about his Muslim identity. More than any other single deception, Mr. Obama's treatment of his own religious background exposes his moral failings.
Yet these remain unknown to the American electorate. Consider the contrast of his case and that of James Frey, the author of A Million Little Pieces. Both Mr. Frey and Mr. Obama wrote inaccurate memoirs that Oprah Winfrey endorsed, and both books rose to No. 1 on the nonfiction best-seller list. When Mr. Frey's literary deceptions about his own drug-taking and criminality became apparent, Miss Winfrey tore into him viciously, a library reclassified his book as fiction and the publisher offered a refund to customers who felt deceived. In contrast, Mr. Obama's falsehoods are blithely excused. Arnold Rampersad, a professor of English at Stanford University who teaches autobiography, admiringly called Dreams from My Father "so full of clever tricks -- inventions for literary effect -- that I was taken aback, even astonished. But make no mistake, these are simply the tricks that art trades in, and out of these tricks is supposed to come our realization of truth." Gerald Early, professor of English literature and African-American studies at Washington University in St. Louis, goes further: "It really doesn't matter if he made up stuff. I don't think it much matters whether Barack Obama has told the absolute truth in Dreams from My Father. What's important is how he wanted to construct his life."
How odd that a lowlife's story about his sordid activities inspires high moral standards while the U.S. president's autobiography gets a pass. Tricky Dick, move over for Bogus Barry.
Editor's Note: President Obama's duplicity in discussing his past is further proof of his Islamic background: The Koran teaches that it is perfectly fine to lie and practice deceit for the furtherance of Islam.
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