May 15, 2008
Broaching That Other Off-Limits Obama Topic
When it comes to Barack Obama, only one subject infuriates the swooning mainstream media more than his father's race -- and that's his father and stepfather's religion. Why, the very mention of Barack's early Islamic training -- or even his Muslim middle name -- has become more sacrosanct a PC no-no than disclosing the race of a non-white crime suspect.
You may recall the furor in January over a pre-Nevada primary "robocall" [MP3] that dropped the full name of Barack Hussein Obama four times. Or the outcries the following month when Cincinnati radio personality Bill Cunningham spoke those same three words repeatedly at a local McCain town-hall meeting. And who can possibly forget the widespread media rush to assure the public of their hero's baptism when a photo of him clad in traditional Muslim garb surfaced on the web that same month?
Not surprisingly then, shortly following the media and blogosphere-pressured condemnations by both Hillary and McCain, mention of Obama's middle name or Muslim heritage became de facto taboo amongst politically correct company. Although not -- it would seem -- for everybody.
A Nuanced Admission from a Pandering Apostate?
In a weekend interview published Monday, the candidate himself mentioned both unmentionables in attempting to mitigate the political damage -- particularly with Jewish voters -- done by Hamas leader Ahmed Yousef's endorsing words "We like Mr. Obama and we hope that he will win the election." The defensive senator told the Atlantic: [emphasis added]
"It's conceivable that there are those in the Arab world who say to themselves, ‘This is a guy who spent some time in the Muslim world, has a middle name of Hussein, and appears more worldly and has called for talks with people, and so he's not going to be engaging in the same sort of cowboy diplomacy as George Bush,' and that's something they're hopeful about. I think that's a perfectly legitimate perception as long as they're not confused about my unyielding support for Israel's security."
So then, it would appear okay to discuss his middle name and childhood exposure to Islam when it helps explain his high regard among terrorists. And that they're now positive points -- particularly when they can be drawn upon to level a cheap shot at the president while pandering to Jewish voters.
Yet, that very same day, an op-ed in the NY Times, of all places, also chose to break taboo by suggesting that, as an apostate of Islam, a President Obama might invite assassination at the hands of jihadists. In stark contrast to the notion that Obama's Indonesian childhood might somehow have an affirmative effect on Palestinians and other Muslims around the world, Edward N. Luttwak's column reminds us of the decidedly negative impact his presidency could have. President Apostate, the writer suggests, would actually compromise Muslim nations' ability to cooperate in our war on terror, as well as "American efforts to export democracy and human rights abroad."
In truth, the apostate angle was hardly a new one. In March of 2006 -- almost a full year before he officially announced his candidacy -- Canadian Free Press founding Editor Judi McLeod asked whether there was "a Muslim apostate headed for the White House?" By then it was well known that Obama's biological father had been Muslim, which, by Islamic law, passes that distinction on to the son. But, as McLeod pointed out -- at the time:
"little [was] known about who Obama's step father was. But some say that he was an Indonesian national and a Muslim. Still, Obama must have attended school in Indonesia. Is it possible that as a young Muslim boy he went to a Saudi madrassa? Yes, that's a possibility."
Indeed, it would be almost a year later, in February of ‘07, that rumors of Obama's early Muslim schooling were confirmed when an AP piece revealed that:
"he attended a Muslim school in Indonesia from age 6 to 10. Obama, who was born in Hawaii, lived in Indonesia with his mother and stepfather from 1967 to 1971 and subsequently returned to Hawaii to live with his maternal grandparents."
The same article quoted Obama's attempt to assuage voters' anxieties over his now exposed early Koran lessons by professing both his middle name and his conversion to Christianity:
"If your name is Barack Hussein Obama, you can expect it, some of that. I think the majority of voters know that I'm a member of the United Church of Christ, and that I take my faith seriously."
In essence then, it was the Associated Press that tacitly outed Obama as a Muslim apostate over a year ago. And in doing so, arguably opened the floodgates.
The Audacity of Denied Apostasy
The following month, Paul Watson of the Los Angeles Times reported that Obama communications director Robert Gibbs' January statement that "Senator Obama has never been a Muslim" and "was not raised a Muslim" had been revised. The reworked phrasing stated instead that "Obama has never been a practicing Muslim" (my emphasis). And while an interesting distinction, what followed in Watson's report told another story still.
This article delved deeper into young Obama's time in Indonesia, "the world's most populous Islamic-majority country," with Lolo Soetoro, his Muslim step-father. Childhood friends were quoted recalling Obama attending "Friday prayers at the local mosque." More disturbingly:
"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 of the 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."
Leaving no doubt that, at least as a child and Gibbs' assurances notwithstanding, Obama had indeed been a practicing Muslim. And, while earlier denial has now given way to dismissal of consequence, the point remains a critical one. As Daniel Pipes wrote in January:
"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 United States, this status, clearly, would have large potential implications for his relationship with the Muslim world."
It would, indeed. As pointed out Monday by Luttwak, while it's unlikely that even the most radically adherent states would allow prosecution of a US president, Shari'a also "prohibits punishment for any Muslim who kills any apostate, and effectively prohibits interference with such a killing." This, itself:
"would complicate the security planning of state visits by President Obama to Muslim countries, because the very act of protecting him would be sinful for Islamic security guards."
Interestingly enough, questions of whether the Illinois senator might actually be eligible for a Shari'a decreed death sentence were raised over a year ago by Jihad Watcher extraordinaire Robert Spencer:
"Probably not -- particularly if he left Islam while still a child. This is a crucial point, for 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."
Be that as it may, such technicalities - if applicable -- may or may not influence mainstream Muslim opinion and are certainly unlikely to dissuade jihadists.
We are, After all, at War With Islamic Extremists
All things considered, there are certainly enough "implications" to a wartime president, in his own words, having spent "some time in the Muslim world" to remove the subject from the hands-off list. In fact, now that he himself has opened the door to extol the virtues of his Koranic studies, and his acolytes at the Times have widened that entry in expressing concerns for his safety, the topic must be considered fair-game.
And that means warts and all - no sacred cows.
In McLeod's 2006 piece, she raised an interesting, albeit provocative, point:
"What if Obama is engaged in pious fraud? This is a Muslim practice of pretending not to be Muslim to further the cause of Islam or to ‘defend the faith.' He becomes President and then says, ‘Gee...I think I want to be Muslim again' after he finds the ‘football' in his hands that carries the launch codes for the USA nuke forces."
Of course, this admittedly extreme scenario was immediately torpedoed from every angle, despite Obama having played intentionally coy with his Islamic heritage. Indeed, the left is quick to point out that Barack is not a Muslim. Yet they are loath to admit that he once was. And their reasoning for declaring unfair any questions about the potential lingering biases of a man aspiring to be commander-in-chief is equally fraudulent.
Having placed his heritage and middle name on the table as advantages in dealing with the Muslim world, the question of the downsides of his possible apostasy in the eyes of our Saudi allies, the Iranians, the Pakistanis and other Muslims needs addressing.
Accordingly -- while it's unclear at exactly what point in life Obama forsook the tenets of Islam, are questions pressing the presumptive nominee's positions on such topics as Shari'a in America or Palestinian right of return any less justifiable?
The stakes just don't allow such sophistry.
Marc Sheppard is a frequent contributor to American Thinker and welcomes your feedback.