In 2008, a poll regarding the public’s view of then candidate Obama’s religious beliefs, found that 1 out of 10 people believed him to be a Muslim – despite him stating the contrary. This perception came about, in large part, due to an Islamophobic Network that has been exposed by numerous independent journalists and research teams. These people and organizations used everything “Muslim” about Obama to “discredit” him (because “Muslim” is currently a political slur) in the minds of American voters, both Right and Left (but mostly Right). They said his name Barack Hussein Obama was proof that he was a devout Muslim; as well as the fact that he spent four years of his childhood in Indonesia, the largest Muslim country in the world. Some simple-minded bigots even suggested that Obama “has” to be a Muslim regardless if his personal religious beliefs are aligned with Christianity, because according to “Islamic law” a son of a Muslim remains within the fold regardless if his beliefs match another religion. Obama’s father was an Atheist.
To “solve” the problem, Obama’s Indonesian step-father Lolo Soetoro was then used as proof of his Muslim identity. Since Soetoro was a Muslim, so goes the argument, Obama became an “adopted” Muslim son which means he will remain within the fold for the rest of his life. Soetoro, in Obama’s own words in Dreams From My Father, practiced a syncretic universalist form of Islam prevalent in Indonesian culture, wherein Hindu and other pre-Islamic Indonesian beliefs were melded in with Islamic teachings; and even spoke highly of the Hindu god Hanuman, the same deity that former Tea Party Express leader Mark Williams apologized to Hindus for, when he declared that Muslims worship a “monkey god.”
“Lolo followed a brand of Islam that could make room for the remnants of more ancient animist and Hindu faiths.”
I’am not in the habit of declaring who is Muslim or not, but clearly this position is not really in-line with mainstream Muslim teaching, and takes one out of the fold of Islam according to the type of Muslims these conspiracy theorists fear. There is also the pointed fact that classical Islam does not really recognize “adoption” in the Western sense, but rather recognizes “Fostering” children. So either way you depict it, Obama is not a Muslim by “inheritance”; not that it would be wrong if he were a Muslim!
On May 10, 2012, four years later, the Huffington Post released the findings of a new poll which found that 1 out of 6 Americans now believe President Obama is a Muslim.
“After nearly four years in the Oval Office, President Obama is incorrectly thought to be Muslim by one in six American voters, and only one quarter of voters can correctly identify him as a Protestant, according to a new poll.”
“While Americans across the board get the president’s religion wrong, the religious group that most often thinks Obama is Muslim is white evangelical Protestants (24 percent). American unaffiliated with a religious group make the error least often: just 7 percent identify Obama as Muslim.” (Emphasis added)
What I find most disturbing about this article, is that Islamophobia is downplayed as an important factor in the public’s perception. Even the executive director of the American Islamic Congress, Zainab Al-Suwaij thinks it is primarily just a “…lack of information than an attack on him,…” If only this were the case. The belief that President Obama is a Muslim is directly followed with demonization of his character. The two claims are inextricably linked in the minds of those who subscribe to this fantasy.
Research director of Public Religion Research Institute, Daniel Cox, also displays befuddlement at the poll data, and suggests that it is because Obama doesn’t “wear his religion on his sleeve” that 16% of Americans believe he is a Muslim.
“Quite frankly, I’m not really sure what to make of it other than this person, although he speaks quite comfortably about his faith, doesn’t wear his religion on his sleeve,…”
“It’s an important part of who he is, but it’s not an important part of his public persona.”
While this may contribute a little confusion among 16% of Americans who believe the President is a Muslim, I think Mr. Cox is ignoring the Islamophobic “elephant in the living room” (there is an Islamic pun there for those who search for it.) As mentioned earlier, there is an entire Islamophobia Industry that ceaselessly turns out blogs, books, public speakers and street thugs to depict all Muslims as evildoers who want to destroy the “Western” way of life, and replace it with an Islamic caliphate or theocracy. Moreover, many of the people who promote these conspiracy theories are religious fanatics themselves, and advocate the very things that they decry Muslims for. Rick Santorum, a prominent Muslim-basher and Birther, for example, will slip in a comment about how American law should reflect “God’s law” as enshrined in the Bible, in the midst of his anti-Muslim diatribe. He also won’t correct his supporters who claim that Obama is a Muslim to his face.
This is more than just a misunderstanding among the majority of the 16% of Americans who believe the President is a Muslim. The “white evangelical Protestant” churches have by and large become hotbeds of right-wing political ideology, and indulgers of wacky conspiracy theories, such as the “Pink Swastika.” This “theory” states that the Nazis, and fascism itself, is the culmination of a culture of “masculine homosexuality.” The more the West “tolerates” homosexuals, at the bidding of the Left, the closer we get to a totalitarian political order whereby the “true believers” will be persecuted for “telling the truth”, which also ties into their opposition to hate-crime legislation. Could this be a possible link to the ramblings of Bradlee Dean of You Can Run But You Cannot Hide International, that Keith Ellison was trying to implement Sharia law through a “homosexual agenda”?
“They are using the homosexuals as a political battering ram to bring forth what? Sharee [sic] law.”
These are the shared sources of the majority of people who believe the President is a Muslim. It’s not just an innocent misunderstanding as some would have us believe, but part of a well-worn and deliberate effort to attach the slur of “Mooslim” to gain political traction. Obama is the most prominent recipient of this jingoistic bigotry, but for as long as the fanatical anti-Muslim movement in the US exists there will be many more who will receive this treatment.