President Obama looks out the window of Marine One as the helicopter lands on the South Lawn of the White House May 22 (White House photo)
JERUSALEM – The number of Muslims in the U.S. would make America “one of the largest Muslim countries in the world,” claimed President Obama in an interview released last night.
His assertion, which is factually inaccurate, comes one day before he is set to deliver a much-anticipated address to the Muslim world from Cairo, Egypt.
Teasing the speech with the French television network Canal Plus, Obama commented.
“Now, the flip side is I think that the United States and the West generally, we have to educate ourselves more effectively on Islam. And one of the points I want to make is, is that if you actually took the number of Muslims Americans, we’d be one of the largest Muslim countries in the world. And so there’s got to be a better dialogue and a better understanding between the two peoples.”
He continued that his Muslim outreach aims to establish “better dialogue” so the Muslim world understands more effectively “how the U.S. but also how the West thinks about many of these difficult issues like terrorism, like democracy, to discuss the framework for what’s happened in Iraq and Afghanistan and our outreach to Iran, and also how we view the prospects for peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians.”
As the Weekly Standard points out, Obama’s claim American Muslims could make the U.S. one of the largest Islamic countries is not demographically true. The most generous estimates put America’s Muslim population at about 8 million, which would barely place the U.S. in the top 42 Muslim countries.
The Standard’s Michael Goldfarb comments, “Obama is undertaking a very significant reorientation of American foreign policy, and one hopes that he isn’t doing so on the very mistaken belief that the U.S. is one of the largest Muslim countries in the world.
“Actually, if you look at the number of Jewish Americans, we’d be the largest Jewish country in the world after Israel. And America is the largest Christian country in the world. This context might be useful to the president as he tries to help the Muslim world better understand the United States,” Goldfarb writes.
Meanwhile, ABC News’ Jake Tapper and Sunlen Miller report the White House’s new approach of stressing Obama’s Islamic roots as part of the president’s outreach to the Muslim world. The move is in contrast to Obama’s stance during the presidential campaign, during which the mere mention of his middle name – Hussein – was strongly condemned as fear-mongering by Obama’s spokesmen.
During a conference call in preparation for the president’s Muslim address tomorrow, deputy National Security Adviser for Strategic Communications Denis McDonough said “the President himself experienced Islam on three continents before he was able to – or before he’s been able to visit, really, the heart of the Islamic world – you know, growing up in Indonesia, having a Muslim father – obviously Muslim Americans (are) a key part of Illinois and Chicago.”
Obama was ‘quite religious in Islam’
Obama’s faith was a central part of his presidential campaign. He has repeatedly denied he is a Muslim. His presidential campaign website contained the statement, “Senator Obama has never been a Muslim, was not raised as a Muslim, and is a committed Christian.”
But as WND reported, public records in Indonesia listed Obama as a Muslim during his early years, and a number of childhood friends claimed to the media Obama was once a mosque-attending Muslim.
Obama’s campaign wavered several times in response to reporters’ queries regarding the senator’s childhood faith.
Commenting on a Los Angeles Times report quoting a childhood friend stating Obama prayed in a mosque, Obama’s campaign released a statement explaining the senator “has never been a practicing Muslim.”
Widely distributed reports have noted that in January 1968 Obama was registered as a Muslim at Jakarta’s Roman Catholic Franciscus Assisi Primary School under the name Barry Soetoro. He was listed as an Indonesian citizen whose stepfather, listed on school documents as “L Soetoro Ma,” worked for the topography department of the Indonesian Army.
Catholic schools in Indonesia routinely accept non-Catholic students but exempt them from studying religion.
After attending the Assisi Primary School, Obama was enrolled “also as a Muslim, according to documents” in the Besuki Primary School, a public school in Jakarta.
Laotze blog, run by an American expatriate in Southeast Asia who visited the Besuki school, noted, “All Indonesian students are required to study religion at school, and a young ‘Barry Soetoro,’ being a Muslim, would have been required to study Islam daily in school. He would have been taught to read and write Arabic, to recite his prayers properly, to read and recite from the Quran and to study the laws of Islam.”
Indeed, in Obama’s autobiography, “Dreams From My Father,” he acknowledged studying the Quran and describes the public school as “a Muslim school.”
“In the Muslim school, the teacher wrote to tell mother I made faces during Quranic studies,” wrote Obama.
The Indonesian media have been flooded with accounts of Obama’s childhood Islamic studies, some describing him as a religious Muslim.
Speaking to the country’s Kaltim Post, Tine Hahiyary, who was principal of Obama’s school while he was enrolled there, said she recalls he studied the Quran in Arabic.
“At that time, I was not Barry’s teacher, but he is still in my memory,” claimed Tine, who is 80 years old.
The Kaltim Post said Obama’s teacher, named Hendri, had died.
“I remember that he studied mengaji (recitation of the Quran),” Tine said, according to an English translation by Loatze.
Mengaji, or the act of reading the Quran with its correct Arabic punctuation, is usually taught to more religious pupils and is not known as a secular study.
Also, Loatze documented the Indonesian daily Banjarmasin Post interviewed Rony Amir, an Obama classmate and Muslim, who described Obama as “previously quite religious in Islam.”
“We previously often asked him to the prayer room close to the house,” Amir said. “If he was wearing a sarong (waist fabric worn for religious or casual occasions) he looked funny.”
The Los Angeles Times, which sent a reporter to Jakarta, quoted Zulfin Adi, who identified himself as among Obama’s closest childhood friends, stating the presidential candidate prayed in a mosque, something Obama’s campaign claimed he never did.
“We prayed, but not really seriously, just following actions done by older people in the mosque,” said Adi. “But as kids, we loved to meet our friends and went to the mosque together and played.”
Obama’s official campaign site contained a page titled “Obama has never been a Muslim, and is a committed Christian.” The page stated, “Obama never prayed in a mosque. He has never been a Muslim, was not raised a Muslim, and is a committed Christian who attends the United Church of Christ.”
But the campaign changed its tune when it issued a “practicing Muslim” clarification to the Los Angeles Times.
An article in March by the Chicago Tribune apparently disputed Adi’s statements to the L.A. paper. The Tribune caught up with Obama’s declared childhood friend, who now describes himself as only knowing Obama for a few months in 1970 when his family moved to the neighborhood. Adi said he was unsure about his recollections of Obama.
But the Tribune found Obama did attend mosque.
“Interviews with dozens of former classmates, teachers, neighbors and friends show that Obama was not a regular practicing Muslim when he was in Indonesia,” states the Tribune article.
It quotes Obama’s former neighbors and third-grade teacher recalling how the young Obama “occasionally followed his stepfather to the mosque for Friday prayers.”
Daniel Pipes, director of the Middle East Forum, notes the Tribune article “cited by liberal blogs as refuting claims Obama is Muslim” actually implies Obama was an irregularly practicing Muslim and twice confirms Obama attended mosque services.
In an interview with the New York Times, Obama described the Muslim call to prayer as “one of the prettiest sounds on Earth at sunset.”
The Times’ Nicholos Kristof wrote Obama recited, “with a first-class [Arabic] accent,” the opening lines of the Muslim call to prayer.
The first few lines of the call to prayer state:
Allah is Supreme!
Allah is Supreme!
Allah is Supreme! Allah is Supreme!
I witness that there is no god but Allah
I witness that there is no god but Allah
I witness that Muhammad is his prophet …
Some attention also has been paid to Obama’s paternal side of the family, including his father and his brother, Roy.
Writing in a chapter of his book describing his 1992 wedding, Obama stated: “The person who made me proudest of all was Roy. Actually, now we call him Abongo, his Luo name, for two years ago he decided to reassert his African heritage. He converted to Islam and has sworn off pork and tobacco and alcohol.”
Still, Obama maintains he was raised by his Christian mother and repeatedly has labeled as “smears” several reports attempting to paint him as a Muslim.
“Let’s make clear what the facts are: I am a Christian. I have been sworn in with a Bible. I pledge allegiance [to the American flag] and lead the Pledge of Allegiance sometimes in the United States Senate when I’m presiding,” he told the Times of London.
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