December 23rd, 2007
02:30 PM ET
5 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. Mary -- Proud to be an American

    Posted By Vancouver, BC : December 23, 2007 3:37pm what candidate besides Clinton uses their middle name - Maybe being from Canada you don't know that Rodham is Hillary's MAIDEN name b/c as a woman she has a right to be proud of her heritage too 🙂

    December 24, 2007 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  2. xtina chicago IL

    I agree w. the poster who said CNN doesn't want to report the real news; but the real news isn't as emotional as the drama of the election. I'd rather be reading about the Fair Tax and its many implications, but for CNN Hillary's drama and Obama's religion debate will bring more ratings, so they always go w/the lowest common denominator. Why don't the commentors who don't want to talk about the religion of the various candidates change the subject to the Fair Tax or whatever else is more important to them ? There's plenty of readers who will participate in more serious dicussions

    December 24, 2007 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  3. Roberto C

    Cole, from Niagara Falls, says "Obama is going to be a role model for youths white,black,asian and hispanic..."

    I am a Hispanic male and I don't want Obama to be a role model for my two young boys. He is an insincere and dishonest coward who doesn't have the guts to admit that he was a Muslim. I also don't want my children doing drugs like Obama did.

    December 24, 2007 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  4. Zeke Tustin CA

    Thanks! CNN for all of the Negative reportings of Obama. Actually It makes him look good in the end. Thanks again! You are doing a terrific job!

    December 24, 2007 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  5. jon wappingers falls ny

    like it should make any difference in the first place whether he is muslim or christian. both religions have their fair share of brutality and torture throughout history.

    December 24, 2007 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  6. localjim, Ft. Lauderdale, Fl

    Who raised you people. Why must you think your views on whether or not the man should change HIS name matters to you. No one cares besides you!
    Barak has the intelligence to seperate church and state and thats what matters. The man can talk with a level of trust very very very few candidates can. Definetly not The Gropers wife. Cause really its not about Hillary its about the Groper half the time.
    Its apparent the Barak is sincere about wanting to fix this country and do some good based on whats right for the people not his religous principles. At least he recognizes and respects everyones right to practice whatever belief you half on life.
    This man is the REAL DEAL
    OBAMA '08

    December 24, 2007 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  7. Ulrich, Germany

    I am really disapointed about this smear campaign going on in a pretending leading democratic country.
    When religious minority in other countries are discriminated in getting high political position, the white hous is always the firts to raise the voice to defend them!
    Why is it that being a "Muslim front runner" for president is a problem un USA?
    Is it written in the constitution that that a Muslim can never be Muslim in USA? If no why this harasment about Obama background?
    Even the way Obama is answering the question shows that he's afraid to associate himself with Islam as if this will mislead his campaign!
    Does it mean his vision of hope for all americain can never be realised for Muslim children?
    I think America should stopp pouring democratic lesson to others until they apply it to themselves in all aspects!

    December 24, 2007 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  8. Brian Hitt

    ----------–
    MITT ROMNEY with MORMON HERITAGE vs. BARACK HUSSEIN OBAMA with MUSLIM HERITAGE (vs. JFK) .. A question of sincerity about one's heritage.
    ----------–

    I liked reading the article and an earlier comment comparing how Mitt Romney and Barack Hussein Obama are disclosing their paternal heritage in differing ways.

    Irrespective of what our heritage is, we should be proud of it. Yes, Mitt Romney has shown statesmanship and tremedous sincerity in coming out openly about his Mormon heritage. In comparison, it is very dissappointing to see how Barack Hussein Obama tries hard to suppress and hide his Muslim heritage.

    US is a free and secular country, however, Barack Hussein Obama seems to doubt the intelligence and tolerance of US people.

    Barack Hussein Obama's father was a Muslim from Africa, and I see no reason why he wants to hide this truth.

    It seems he has selective memory.

    Barack Hussein Obama proudly showcases his african-american heritage from his father, but tries his best to hide his Muslim heritage derived from his father.

    This is pure political Hypocrisy. Barack Hussein Obama has a lot to learn from Mitt Romney and J.F.Kennedy.

    --------

    December 24, 2007 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  9. Brian Hitt, Bryan, TX


    ——————————–
    MITT ROMNEY with MORMON HERITAGE vs. BARACK HUSSEIN OBAMA with MUSLIM HERITAGE (vs. JFK) .. A question of sincerity about one's heritage.
    ——————————–

    I liked reading the article and an earlier comment comparing how Mitt Romney and Barack Hussein Obama are disclosing their paternal heritage in differing ways.

    Irrespective of what our heritage is, we should be proud of it. Yes, Mitt Romney has shown statesmanship and tremedous sincerity in coming out openly about his Mormon heritage. In comparison, it is very dissappointing to see how Barack Hussein Obama tries hard to suppress and hide his Muslim heritage.

    US is a free and secular country, however, Barack Hussein Obama seems to doubt the intelligence and tolerance of US people.

    Barack Hussein Obama's father was a Muslim from Africa, and I see no reason why he wants to hide this truth.

    It seems he has selective memory.

    Barack Hussein Obama proudly showcases his african-american heritage from his father, but tries his best to hide his Muslim heritage derived from his father.

    This is pure political Hypocrisy. Barack Hussein Obama has a lot to learn from Mitt Romney and J.F.Kennedy.

    ———————-

    December 24, 2007 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  10. Norman, Orlando FL.

    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.

    Posted By J, CA : December 23, 2007 11:20 am

    Half Muslim? Last I checked, Muslim is a religion, not race and therefore is not passed along genetically as, for instance, being half white/half black. You either follow the teachings of Islam or you don't. Either way, it isn't a crime and it shouldn't be a big deal in this country.

    The sad fact remains though that in this country, the level of intolerance and ignorance of other cultures has risen to new heights. Not to single any group out, but, Evangelicals claim that there is a war against Christianity in this country when the truth is that they are just as intolerant of other religions as they claim others are of theirs. The same goes for Muslims and Jews.

    December 24, 2007 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  11. Mz, Austin Texas

    ... senator Obama should be very proud of his Islamic background and he should be talking about that background as he proudly talk about his so many other backgrounds. His so called "White World and Black World" referring to his "Mother and Father" and/ or "United Nations' Like" refering to diversity in his family stretching from Black-African, to White-America, to Asia (considering the Half-Sister of his whose father is from Indonesia). And the point that I'm trying to make is if he is proud of his mother regardless of what his mother's ancenstors did to Black-Americans, he should also be proud of his father's faith and all that embodied Mr. Baraka, "not Barack," Hussein Obama, Sr. Islam is the beautiful thing and the fact that Political-America had talked and said all these aweful things about "the Faith" does not mean that the Islamic faith is what these people say it is. Senator should know this...

    December 24, 2007 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  12. Judith, Cleveland, OH

    Speaking of getting your facts straight, Henry, there is no such person as Bob Kelley.

    December 24, 2007 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  13. HILLARY RULES THE SOUTH , MEMPHIS TN

    I WILL NEVER VOTE 4 SOME ONE THAT IS USEING HIS RACE AS A GET ME BY PEOPLE IN ILLINOIS DO NOT EVEN SUPPORT THIS FOOL AN YOU ALL ARE LOL AT YOU ALL AMERICA WILL NEVER HAVE A MUSILIM PLANT AS PRESIDENT YOU ALL SHOULD BE LABLED TRADERS TO THIS NATION FOR SUPPORTING THIS MUSLIM PLANT TO THIS COUNTRY READ HE ONLY GOT ELECTED IN HIS STATE BY MISHAPS SCANDLE AN A REAL BLACK DUDE ALEN KEYS GOP THAT GOT ONLY20 CUZ OSAMA WAS THE ONLY CHOICE NOW YOU WANNA THROW HIM UP IN OUR WHITE HOUSE SHAME ON YOU ALL TRADERS TO THIS NATION YOU SHOULD BE HORSE WIPED.

    December 24, 2007 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  14. jose,california

    Cole, from Niagara Falls, says "Obama is going to be a role model for youths white,black,asian and hispanic…"

    I am a Hispanic male and I don't want Obama to be a role model for my two young boys. He is an insincere and dishonest coward who doesn't have the guts to admit that he was a Muslim. I also don't want my children doing drugs like Obama did.

    Posted By Roberto C : December 24, 2007 1:27 pm

    I am Hispanic and I would love to see Obama my president and my children. I don't care what you think but I am sick and tired of being called illegal immigrant. I would vote for Obama any time of the day.

    December 24, 2007 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  15. Brad, Los Angeles, CA

    What is with all this "what is he hiding, why is he ashamed" business. Please paste me the quote from senator Obama that states "I am ashamed of my Muslim background". Anyone? Yeah, I thought not.

    People change in thier religious beliefs, sometimes from one faith to another, and sometimes from one level of involvement or belief to another.

    Feel free to not support Obama for his issues, but to smear a man because of his religious background is pathetic.

    For those blasting him because he "hides" his middle name...how often do you introduce yourslef including your middle name? I can hardly remember what mine is...that's how often I use it.

    You people cry that you want change, but guess what? As long as you live in fear of everyone that has a different skin tone, or believes in a different invisable man than you do...nothing will change.

    December 24, 2007 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  16. therealist

    No one knows how to spew hate better than the progessively tolerant left..

    December 24, 2007 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  17. mose,california

    Obama is probably the best candidate for president. Can you trust Hillary? I don't.

    December 24, 2007 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  18. Josh, Jacksonville, Florida

    Firstly, I am a Christian and I believe that Sen. Obama is at well. What your parents are or did does not make who you are. Can it have an impact on who you are and what you believe? YES.. However, Sen. Obama was very much estranged from his father and his Muslim heritage is not one of hate and evil. All across the world people have corrupted all forms of religion, even Christianity. There are those who preach hate and racism, but claim to be Christian, just as there are those who sadly corrupt Islam.

    Sen. Obama has the judgment, intelligence, and ability to lead this country. He understands that the President must stand up for what he believes in and be willing to listen to different ideas and viewpoints, even if you do not always agree with the other side.

    We need a new and fresh leader who can bring about a new change in our attitudes across the world and once again bring prosperity to the American people.

    I sincerely believe that Senator Obama is that candidate!

    Peace,

    JM

    December 24, 2007 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  19. timothy

    Obama has a fine intelligence, good values, and appears to be authentic. I don't think any other candidate, Dem or other comes close to him.

    December 24, 2007 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  20. BF - Malibu, CA

    A couple things to think about in relation to fear over Obama's muslim background and the Islamic religion in general:

    "Those who believe (in the Quran), and those who follow the Jewish (scriptures), and the Christians...and (all) who believe in God and the last day and work righteousness, shall have their reward with their Lord; on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve." The Qur'an, 2:62

    Hmmm...that doesn't sound to terrible.

    "Jim Jones, David Koresh and Meir Kahane do not typify Christianity and Judaism in the eyes of the civilized West, but those same eyes are prone to see Osama bin Laden and Mullah Muhammad Omar as typifying Islam," Richard Bulliet

    If you have a few minutes, read a little bit about the Islamic religion, and what it is REALLY about. You might find that you have a little less to be afraid of. The entire world has this little religious problem of saying "I hate you and your religion" and not even knowing what they hate or having a legitimate reason why. That old line your school teachers used to give you, of "knowledge is power" has a good bit of truth in it.

    December 24, 2007 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  21. Andrew,nevada

    What you guys don't realize is that "Josh" is probably a volunteer for Hillary Clinton's campaign. This is the typical type of negative B.S. campaign garbage that she learned from her husband. Give it a rest.

    December 24, 2007 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  22. faith

    Now that John edwards has been caught with a love child scandal, Obama gonna rise like noone business

    December 24, 2007 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  23. Dave, NY, NY

    Now that old issues that have been answered are being dragged back up maybe someone can take the time to ask Obama if he is black enough. Why must non-issues get so much attention.

    December 24, 2007 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  24. Ken, Tampa, FL

    Those of you that are for Obama seem to think that anyone that isn't for him is for Hillary. Where do you get this mentality? I'm an Independent ,( just changed) and Hillary is not one of my favorites even though I would never in this lifetime vote for a Muslim, a black person, yes, a black or any other color Muslim, no way. And I'm not voting for Hillary either.

    December 24, 2007 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  25. AP, Woodbridge VA

    Ofcourse he is a Muslim, his father was, He does not want American public to know about his background. America does not need a person whos middle name is "Hussein" as a middle name.

    HILLARY 2008!!!!

    December 24, 2007 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
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