Boyhood Friend and Teacher Say Obama Was Muslim
The issue of Sen. Barack Obama’s Muslim past has surfaced again as his campaign steps back from its flat denial that he ever belonged to the Islamic faith.
Earlier this year several media outlets reported that Obama had attended a radical madrasa, or Islamic school, when he lived in Indonesia. At the time, Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs declared: “To be clear, Senator 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.”
The report about the radical madrasa turned out to be false.
Now, in a statement to the Los Angeles Times on Wednesday, Gibbs amended that declaration, saying: “Obama has never been a practicing Muslim,” the key word being “practicing.”
But a boyhood friend of Obama in Indonesia, Zulfin Adi, told the Times: “His mother often went to the church, but Barry [Barack’s name at the time] was Muslim. He went to the mosque.”
The Times sent a reporter to Jakarta, capital of the Muslim nation, to delve into an issue that could have a serious impact on the Democratic presidential candidate’s White House aspiration, as voters “react to a candidate with an early exposure to Islam, a religion that remains foreign to many Americans,” the Times noted.
Obama was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, to Barack Hussein Obama Sr., a Kenyan, and Kansas-born Ann Dunham. The couple separated when Barack was 2. They later divorced, and Dunham married Lolo Soetoro, a Muslim. In 1967, the family moved to Jakarta, where Obama was known as Barry Soetoro, and he remained there from age 6 to 10.
Obama attended first grade at a Catholic elementary school near his home, St. Francis of Assisi Foundation School, which accepted students of any religion.
His first-grade teacher Israella Dharmawan told the 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 was Muslim.”
In the third grade, Obama transferred to a public school, where he was also registered as a Muslim.
Muslim students at the school attended weekly religion lessons about Islam, taught by a Muslim.
In his autobiography, “Dreams From My Father,” Obama mentions studying the Quran and describes the public school as “a Muslim school.”
Boyhood friend Adi said Obama occasionally went to Friday prayers at a local mosque.
“We prayed but not really seriously, just following actions done by older people in the mosque,” he told the Times.
Sometimes, when the call to prayer sounded, Barry and Lolo would walk to the mosque together, Adi added.
Obama’s half-sister Maya Soetoro, in a statement issued Wednesday by the Obama campaign, said the family attended the mosque only for “big communal events.”
New revelations about Obama’s Muslim past could provide ammunition for his critics — and political opponents.
One such critic is Chicago-based Internet journalist and broadcaster Andy Martin, a lawyer and consumer advocate who wrote earlier about Obama’s connection to Islam.
Reacting to the claim from Obama’s sister that the family went to the mosque only for “big communal events,” Martin wrote on Thursday: “Tens of millions of ‘Christians’ flock to churches for Easter and Christmas. And they would slap you down if you told them they were not Christians merely because they only appear twice a year for ‘big communal events.’”
He also wrote: “Obama no longer denies he was a Muslim. Now he says he wasn’t a ‘practicing’ Muslim.
“People in general will accept most anything from public officials as long as they don’t lie about it.”