December 23rd, 2007
02:30 PM ET
6 years ago

Voter asks Obama about 'Muslim background'

Obama, who is not Muslim, has been trying to clear up voter misconceptions.

PLEASANTVILLE, Iowa (CNN) -– Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama was asked about his "Muslim background" by a potential voter at a coffee shop Saturday, and used the encounter as an opportunity to try to put to rest stories that he said had been "misreported."

Obama joined a group of four women in a booth to eat some pumpkin pie and sip a cup of tea. One of the women asked him how his "Muslim background" would affect his decisions as president.

"This is something that keeps on being misreported, so I’m glad you asked me," Obama, who is Christian, said.

He told them his father had lived in a Muslim-dominated village in Kenya, but “didn’t practice Islam."

"Truth is, he wasn’t very religious,” said Obama. “He met my mother. My mother was a Christian from Kansas, and they married, and then divorced. I was raised by my mother. So I’ve always been a Christian."

He also touched on the fact that he lived in the Muslim country of Indonesia for four years of his childhood.

"I didn’t practice [Islam]," Obama continued, but added that being in that area had given him "insight into how these folks think."

Just before being pulled away from the table by a staffer, Obama told the women he had been a member of the Trinity United Church of Christ for the past 15 years.


–CNN Iowa Producer Chris Welch

Filed under: Candidate Barack Obama • Iowa
soundoff (374 Responses)
  1. Patrick Lincoln, NE

    Yet again, Obama shows he is a man of integrity. These spurrious claims that he is "Muslim" have been a calculated smear by his rivals, both Republican and, sadly, Democrat (Hillary). Strike a blow for freedom and tolerance. Vote for Obama!

    December 23, 2007 10:05 am at 10:05 am |
  2. Dez

    I don't understand why it would make a difference whether he is Muslim or not. It shouldn't matter and he shouldn't have to be quick to defend that he is Christian. Being a Muslim should not be a detriment.

    December 23, 2007 10:12 am at 10:12 am |
  3. Ernie Puto, Rosemont,, IL

    I am fine with Obama, but his statements contradict with previous statements. He was not, according to himself, raised a Christian. He was not raised in any religious tradition. His mother was not affiliated any Christian denomination and in fact was negatively inclined toward faith

    December 23, 2007 10:15 am at 10:15 am |
  4. Christine Atlanta, Ga.

    It doesn't matter what he says. What matters is how the Repulican slime machine would use this in the General election. I can see the ads now. There will be a split screen: Obama's face on one side/ Osama Bin Laden's face on the other. The caption? I can't even imagine.

    December 23, 2007 10:16 am at 10:16 am |
  5. Reggie, Germany

    Thanks CNN for again highlighting the Obama – Muslim question. I hope his answer to the interested womens question will put this matter to bed for you and the country finally.

    My question to you CNN is why are you not highlighting how Hillary again (as with the Clergy list) trys to deceive the american people by padded her list of foreign policies advisors with people who are lobbyist, bundlers and sports writers.

    Is it that when Obama has to defend himself against lies from individuals and campaigns thats news; but a candidate (Hillary) who purposfully misleads the american people is not??

    December 23, 2007 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  6. Phemi, DC metro area

    The real question is; If Barak Hussein Obama is a Christian, why did did he go to a muslim school? Why is Barack's name still..Obama Hussein?

    America is not ready for a Leader with a muslim background.

    Truth is...Hussein can return to his former religion in future!!!!

    Moslim leaders will not sit down with an infidel anyway.

    December 23, 2007 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  7. Asma Bint Marwan, Chicago IL

    Obama lied to the voters. His father practiced Islam. He had 4 wives, the most allowed according to the Hadiths.

    December 23, 2007 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  8. Ernie Puto, Rosemont,, IL

    To substantiate my previous comment:

    From his book Audacity of Hope chapter 6: Barack Obama states that he "was not raised in a religious household." He also details that his mothers parents (who had an influence on his life) were also non-religious and that his mother was detached from religion.

    Baracks spin here seems to be intended as a "sales job" and, for me, puts into question whether his current conviction is more based on the stark reality that an atheist would not succeed politically.

    December 23, 2007 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  9. Muhammed, Detroit, Michigan

    Obama saying his father lived in a muslim-dominated village in Kenya and not practicing Islam really worries me about integrity issues. I am a practicing muslim who lived in a muslim-dominated village in Africa as a child. And I know from experience that if you are muslim and grew up in a muslim-dominated village, then you are most likely to have practiced islam. I am disgusted by those fundamentalists who are abusing the Islamic religion by perpetueting violence and fear, but I will not runaway from my religion because of them.

    December 23, 2007 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  10. Crazy Atheist

    Obama believes in a god?!? Next candidate please!

    December 23, 2007 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  11. Lee, Mays Landing, New Jersey

    Is "Muslim" a dirty word? Since when did any contact with Islam be so toxic?

    The whole concept is retarded and it all started when Republicans, for political reasons, decided to start a phony “War on Terra” against The Muslim World and unrelated Muslim countries (Iraq) rather than just catching the criminals that planned and enabled the 9-11 attacks and outing them on trial for mass murder and crimes against humanity.

    Instead we set off on some insane “crusade” with an entire segment of the republican “base” hoping that our actions radicalizing the Muslim world will somehow speed up the coming of Armageddon, the Second Coming etc. We have damaged ourselves immensely and gone off the deep end in the service or right wing republican politics.

    Barrack Obama is not my first choice in this, but he does have a unique opportunity, because of his unique ethnic background, to change perceptions about the USA around the world, and end this asinine modern “crusade” and the struggle of the American brand of Christendom versus Islam and help bring us to modern times and out of the middle ages.

    This whole Muslim baiting thing is so sad. Shame on Fox News, Hillary, Rush and other Republicans for promulgating it!

    December 23, 2007 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  12. Tom Bulger, Avon, Maine

    I don't think it adds one iota to O'Bamas qualifications that he is Christian. That kind of prejudice is what the founding fathers fought against.

    Some of the dearest kindest most responsible people I have ever known are Muslim. I wish I could say the same of all "Christians."

    December 23, 2007 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  13. Blayze Kohime, Columbus OH

    Why would him having practiced Islam at some point in his life make him a better or worse person?
    I do think having lived among them would help him understand them better, and understanding is what we need right now. We don't need a government that strives to make us afraid of shadows.

    December 23, 2007 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  14. Terry, El Paso, TX

    Every church and religion has in its membership smart people, dumb people, sweet people, bitter people, murderer, rapists, thieves, saints, drug dealers, heteros, homos, lesbos, metros, andros, physicians, day care workers, idiots, jerks, Bible readers, people who don't own a Bible, scholars, cheaters, adulterers, and sweethearts. Knowing that someone attends a church or believes in a particular faith tells you NOTHING about that person.

    For example, my friend Fred is a Christian. Does Fred believe in reincarnation? Perhaps you say no, but 1 in 5 Christians do. Does Fred believe in ghosts? Half of the Christians do and half don't. Does Fred believe in the virgin birth of Jesus? 1 out of 4 Christians don't.

    So what can we say about Fred? We can say that he's probably a man, but maybe not. It could be my friend Fredericka's nickname.

    December 23, 2007 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  15. cathy,newton,iowa

    Right on Obama. That is why I love you. Let Hillary dance around the country pretending to have a hard side and soft side.
    You have my vote!

    December 23, 2007 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  16. Adam, Pittsburgh, PA

    It's truly embarrassing for the U.S. that he has to keep on doing this. Clinton team's tactics working?

    December 23, 2007 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  17. Naomi,manchester,NH

    Thanks CNN for again highlighting the Obama – Muslim question. I hope his answer to the interested womens question will put this matter to bed for you and the country finally.

    My question to you CNN is why are you not highlighting how Hillary again (as with the Clergy list) trys to deceive the american people by padded her list of foreign policies advisors with people who are lobbyist, bundlers and sports writers.

    Is it that when Obama has to defend himself against lies from individuals and campaigns thats news; but a candidate (Hillary) who purposfully misleads the american people is not??

    Posted By Reggie, Germany : December 23, 2007 10:17 am

    Need I say more?

    December 23, 2007 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  18. Lynn Kinsey, Southern, CO

    I am glad that CNN is posting a story about this. Especially with Obama telling it directly. There has been so much negativity from people about this, and it is ludicrous. I have personally received a few emails from people I know, saying things like, "Did you know this! Be warned!" etc... it is just ignorance I think. I also believe that Obama's background and experience makes him an excellent candidate for foreign policy. He is in touch with not only Americans, but also the entire world. That is a very positive thing. Hillary is just in touch with the White House and the drive for power. We need Obama for real change.

    December 23, 2007 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  19. ken,charleston,south carolina

    Lee, Mays Landing, New Jersey

    Is "Muslim" a dirty word? Since when did any contact with Islam be so toxic?

    I think America need to wake up. Obama has been around enough,campaigned enough to know him to the core.
    I have this transparency in what he does and say than I do with Hillary. She has never answered any question and if she does she double talks. People don't even know who Hillary is as a person.
    I am disguisted by this muslim thing keep being brought up. We are days away yet been a Hillary supporter before has left me no choice but to vote for Obama who I know best.
    Hillary will never get my vote!

    December 23, 2007 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  20. Zaid Alam,INDIA

    America is a great country and people as well but few people are making it worst. For instance my case. I am INDIAN belong to very INTELLECTUAL and good family in INDIA and educated. Invested lots of money in USA but on APRIL 2007 I decided to bring my daughter 8 MONTHS OLD DAUGHTER and wife to USA for business cum pleasure trip and they have refused me to enter in USA coz they thought I will stay back in USA. I have occurred huge loses but no one is ready to listen to me. Where is the JUSTICE IN THE NATION WHO IS KNOWN FOR "STATUE OF LIBERTY"...I will continue to write emails on all the websites and write letters till I find JUSTICE. Please help me to HIGHLIGHT my case please there are lots of innocent people out there who are not CULPRITS but they are hurt.

    I am ready to have a dialogue with any one because my family is innocent. The point which hurts me the most when I was in the waiting room there 4 officers which were not not satisfy when one officer was cancelling my VISA and they even had argument but then they walked in the back. And when they were taking me to the DETENTION FACILITY one officer said to me "If I was in his place I would have never done this to your family". Please help me to support my family. I am very hopeful that some one will listen to me and have MERCY for on MY DAUGHTERS FUTURE, MY WIFE FUTURE & MY FUTURE.
    Regards,Zaid Alam

    December 23, 2007 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  21. george,derry,newhempshire

    I am from Kenya. I lived where Obama father come from.
    I would add that, having lived there, there are so many people who bore names with that are muslim to get scholarships. That was an easier way because it was very hard for anyone with a English("christian") name to get one or with an African name. I don't know if that is exactly the reasons why his parents named him that but I can tell you they don't practice islam or christianity but many do have muslim names.

    December 23, 2007 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  22. brian,canada

    Why is it that Americans like putting people who are nice and have all what a human being need to live in this world and prefer someone who would take them to war,use their kids to kill other people like George bush has.
    I just don't get it!

    December 23, 2007 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  23. J, CA

    Let me get this straight. His father is a Muslim man, and Obama is uncomfortable with that.So he's sticking to his mother's heritage to compensate for it.Apparently only thing he won't mind from his father's side is skin color so that he can appeal to African Americans. All in all, I see a man who's not proud of his roots. This is exactly why even African-Americans don't embrace him.
    If his father is muslim, then Obama is half-muslim irrespective of whether he practices Islam or not.So accept that without making a big fuss of it.Why you so afraid of being labeled as muslim? Last time I checked it's not a crime to be a muslim.

    December 23, 2007 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  24. Temo,baltimore,md

    Well DUH, he is an American citizen born on native soil and raised a Christian. Not like he had a lot of choice in the matter.

    Why are you distancing yourself from your European or Asian heritage by dressing like an American? Why are you wearing wooden shoes or eating with chopsticks every day?

    December 23, 2007 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  25. Victor,boston,ma

    Man you just wasted 10 mins of your day spewing this garbage. Obama is a Christian, a documented Christian for at least 20 years. Take your nonsense to a white supremacist Republicans forum, you'll be glady accepted there.

    December 23, 2007 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
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