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. Chuol, Fl

    CNN = Hatred To Sen. Obama
    Thank To CNN>

    CNN Didn't You Be The best Political ON TV?

    Not THe the Hatred Uh????????????//

    December 24, 2007 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  2. Vanessa Edwards Foster, Houston TX

    This is yet another reaffirmation of the lip-service of America, esp. when it comes to the "freedom of religion" claim. Since Reagan, and now ramped up by W, American politics has been steadily marching toward a more theocratic society. This is evidenced in both the GOP and Democrat side now, though - not just with Obama. It's what's behind the questions on Romney, and I would presume they secretly wonder about Catholic Giuliani as well, not to mention comments made by Ron Paul regarding religiopolitics. The constitution states "freedom of religion" and we advertise equal opportunity, but in this election we'll see how unrealistic that claim is. Sadly folks like Obama, Romney, Giuliani or anyone who dares question big religion will be quietly, firmly marginalized and never given a chance. It's part of the evangelical co-option of America.

    December 24, 2007 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  3. Serge, New York City

    Tony Blair became a Catholic after leaving power in Great Britain so Barak Obama can go back to being a Muslim (if he ever was one) if he is ever elected. We also shouldn't forget that Rudolph Giuliani is a Roman Catholic & Mitt Romney is a Mormon so there are candidates with different faiths who are running in this election. Religion shouldn't be such a big deal in this day and age.

    December 24, 2007 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  4. Anonymous, LA, CA

    Bush says he's a Christian, but everyone knows he worships Satan.

    Obama can worship Hanna Montana for all I care, as long as he gets the GIs the hell out of the middle east.

    How much you want to make a bet that Santa's gonna give George a taser gun for xmas.

    December 24, 2007 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  5. LQ Rochester MN

    This is all so unbelievable.
    The man is a member of a Christian church.
    When he answered the woman's questions here, I did not feel that he was ashamed of "his muslim roots". I think he probably feels – and justifiably so, just based on some of the comments here – that America will NOT vote for a muslim to be POTUS.
    Now if he had changed his name, wouldn't these same people be saying he changed it to hide his muslim roots?
    Personally, I don't care what religion he is or if he even has one. I want to know if he is a man with character and integrity. I want to know how he stands on the issues. Anything else is just BS.

    And about that Pledge of Allegiance picture? What if that was taken at the very beginning and he was just slower than the others in putting his hand to his heart? I think there are people who are going to grab whatever they can to pull him down.

    This hatred and bigotry scares and disgusts me.

    December 24, 2007 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  6. John, Des Moines, Iowa

    Folks, here is a reader's post I found on It is scary to think that the Republicans are hoping for Obama to win the Dem primaries.

    Obama says he has always been a christian. Give me a break. His father was a muslim and his mother was an atheist. How could he have “always been christian?” If he was always interested in christianity, why didn’t he join a church (any church) sooner? Why did he join the Trinity church in Chicago only when he decided to enter politics? This man is phony and deceptive! And it looks like the gullible democtrats are falling flat for him….good for the GOP. Our GOP wonderboy Rove and his machinery will eat Obama alive."

    December 24, 2007 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  7. Roberto C

    Jose from California says, "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."

    Jose, Obama is intolerant of immigrants and foreign nations. Please pay attention to the speeches he is been giving in Iowa.

    December 24, 2007 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  8. bobby robinson 1815 halifax ave richmond va

    some of these people on this broad claim to be muslem,then they make thier comment,they are fake because a true muslem would not practice no other religion than islam he will never deneid it his wife and his dauther would not be christian they wuld be raise as muslem no exception.tell me what is your definition of to be christ like you should not be a racist,murder, lier, thief,fornicater,no boyfriend or girlfried,now are you a christian

    December 24, 2007 06:06 pm at 6:06 pm |
  9. Heritier, phoenix, az

    This should not be the issue at all. I find it hard to believe on people who question others based on their background, ethnicity, color, religion or even belong to such or such geographic part of the country.I have always admire the american way of living, especially the abondance of multicultural and acceptance of all kind of people who live in this country. That is what this country is great for. I just become a US citizen just coming from a country where people have been instruments of politician and are being driven by selfishiness and politicians agos.Back to obama, if us american question obama's competences and ability of leading, I am totaly Okay with that.But if we question his candidency because his father believed to what religion or his mother wasn't a believer, we are really close to what the rest of the world is doing. I am a survivor of politician slogants and I know how they can ride you without noticing what is happening. if people like Mareshall Petain can betray his people, it is not because he did not have enough experience like some people who are calling Obama for it. Politicians who divide people are so dangerous to deal with, they will never show you their face. PLease do not lead yourself the catastoph. because of the reseons above, Obama got my vote this morning.

    December 24, 2007 06:11 pm at 6:11 pm |
  10. Jay

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

    Posted By Asma Bint Marwan,

    If Obama's father was practicing Islam he would not have married Obama's mother who is a christain. So get your facts right.

    December 24, 2007 06:24 pm at 6:24 pm |
  11. Bob, Florida

    "..the United States has been moving toward fascism over the last 100 years." Ron Paul, Meet the Press, 12-23-07. "..when fascism comes to this country, it will be wrapped in the flag, carrying a cross."

    "We're not moving toward a Hitler-type fascism, but we're moving toward a softer fascism," Ron Paul said. "Loss of civil liberties, corporations running the show, big government in bed with big business."

    December 24, 2007 07:13 pm at 7:13 pm |
  12. Rick Bertz, Van Nuys, CA 91401

    Lee in Mays Landing asked what is wrong with being Muslim in relation to this story. My answer is that nothing is wrong with being Muslim, but that a lot of narrow minded Americans will not vote for someone they think is anything but Christian when it comes to the presidency. Therefore, every time someone insinuates Obama is anything but a good Christian, he is hurt. Frankly, a paralegal I had a Spanish class with recently said she would not vote for Obama because he was Mulsim. She was misinformed and tried to argue with me, but she basically believed what she had heard and will nto vote for Obama. If he is the democratic nominee she will probably not vote in November. It sucks, but that is the way America is.

    December 24, 2007 07:57 pm at 7:57 pm |
  13. margie, Los Angeles

    According to Muslim tradition, your name is one way to track you lineage..wouldn't it be funny if Saddam Hussien and Barack Hussien Obama are related.... I would luve to see that kind of karma...

    December 24, 2007 10:13 pm at 10:13 pm |
  14. Dem Komah, Bronx, NY

    Senator Obana,

    Sir, why are you afraid of your own shadow?
    I’m one of the million Americans who admire your political wisdom; importantly your honesty to the matters.
    Sadly, you are turning the wisdom and the honest answer to the matters that attracted millions of Americans like me to a political machine.
    The answer you gave to the ladies in the coffee was simply a political answer, but not the truth to the matter.
    Sir, with all due respect you father was complete and faithful Muslim; honestly you know it, as Muslim I know it and so do thousands American Muslims.
    That fact of matter is, one must be a faithful Muslim to name one’s son Barack Obama; one must be a complete Muslim to marry four wives, and one must be a complete and faithful Muslim sent one’s son to Islamic school (Madarassa).
    Please do not disappoint millions people who are willing to vote for you not matter what.
    And remember the big supporter for all the candidates, is God self and the almighty has already choosing the next president who will best led America.
    God bless America

    December 24, 2007 10:57 pm at 10:57 pm |
  15. shaks.Piscataway,NJ

    it shuldn't matter whether a person is muslim or Christian because..decisions are decision..nuthin shuld b in favor of any cast..shuld be in favor of justice. Statement stated by Obama that he is not Muslim nd he is Christian may somewhat raise criticism because..this is not right choice to say to media..Instead of taking favor of Christain he should have said that "It dont matter if a person is Christian or Muslim or who so ever" Decisions are meant to b in the favor of Justice.Obama may seem like a good person...and indeed he is.. and few ppl also have hopes on him to be next again..he need to learn more things before he have a seat on presendicy.

    December 25, 2007 12:45 am at 12:45 am |
  16. Bill, Detroit MI

    Phemi - you do not know what you are talking about. Obama was never Muslim. His father abandoned the family when Barack was about 2. So, I am guessing that the fatherly influence was not great. As for why he never changed his name. Why should he?

    December 25, 2007 12:53 am at 12:53 am |
  17. gangwayjan chicago illinois

    Obama is and always has been a White Sox fan. - gangwayjan

    December 25, 2007 01:47 am at 1:47 am |
  18. rdierker

    Is Hillary really a Republican? I mean, she spent years registered as one.
    The funny thing is, Obama was never Muslim, although he did live in an Islamic country as a child. AND he went to school there, and schools in Islamic countries are called madrases...Gasp! It is truly pathetic that people can take this bit of information and use it to try and damage Barack's image. Hillary and the Republicans should be ashamed of themselves. The truth is, Obama's experience with Islamic culture will probably be beneficial when it comes to dealing with leaders of Islamic countries. The fact that so many Americans are scared of his name, and the fact that so many Americans are so out of touch with Islamic culture in general really reflects badly upon us.
    We need Obama to come in to office and fix our education system so that we won't have anymore numb-skulls going around fearing and hating what they don't understand. It's called culture, Middle America, get some. There's more to life than Church, Big Macs, and Monster Trucks. Obama rules!

    December 25, 2007 05:05 am at 5:05 am |
  19. Michael, Stamford CT

    Who cares how he was raised, or what he practices. This country was built upon tolerance and acceptance. No public servant should be held to a litmus test on his or her religion. It is a truly private matter. And for those afraid of the "Republican Slime Machine" I say grow up, its time to stop running in fear of what could be, a set the terms of the debate.

    December 25, 2007 09:44 am at 9:44 am |
  20. Ben in Huntsville, AL

    OK – let’s wake up and smell the coffee. It’s all politics—that’s why they call this a political process. Let’s review what happened—

    Edwards goes negative because he’s so far behind.
    Obama goes negative because the “pundits” says he has to in order to gain ground.
    Hillary retaliates, albeit badly.

    But these are the frontrunners, and anyone who doesn’t think ALL of these folks are spinning is naïve or living in another world. They’re all saying what they think the audience wants to hear. Obama’s contradictions to his own biography about his religious upbringing is a great example of that.

    It’s about winning. If you want the straight talkers, go with Biden, Dodd, etc. in the primaries. In the end, let’s not shoot ourselves in the foot and let the Republicans reclaim the White House—all of the Democratic candidates are preferable to any of them.

    December 25, 2007 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  21. Concerned Citizen #1

    Bruck Obema Hussein Aljdonal (his real name according to The Audacity of Hope, have to scratch the silver part off)is a terrorist and George W. Bush knows it!!

    December 25, 2007 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  22. Kelly, Portland, OR

    It is a sad statement about our country that Obama or anyone 1.) had to deny being Muslim, or anything at all for that matter, and 2.) reassure people of his christianity.
    Why does this matter to people?? Didn't W. turn anyone off who hides behind religion?

    December 25, 2007 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  23. fabooj, Los Angeles, CA

    Oh good Lord...I sincerely hope most of you don't vote, as I've never seen so much willful ignorance before. I understand that when facts present themselves, your baseless bigotry will muscles itself in to be heard, but dang...I'm embarrassed to be of the same species as some of you.

    I bet most of you that keep spewing "Hussein" like it's a dirty word, probably don't even know John McCain's or Mike Huckabee's middle name without looking it up? Know what that means? That means you've been played by the media and you keep being played while thinking you actually have an original thought.

    It's amazing to see the sheer stupidity displayed by those of you who keep harping on Obama's early education. That shows that you don't even understand that Indonesia is the largest Muslim country. Let's see on the flip if a guy raised here in the US ran for leader in Indonesia and the Indonesia people said, "But he went to a Christian school!" Just because it was in the US. See how completely and totally dumb you are?

    As for everyone else who are crying that the Republicans are going to be mean to Obama...really? If you guys are voting, that explains why the Democrats in Congress are so spineless. Thanks.

    As for the rest of you, there so many lies here, that I wonder if you even live in reality. His father had 4 wives? Ignorant. That moron that wondered why Obama was given his name if he wasn't Muslim? Apparently too stupid to realize that there are millions of Arabs who are Christians and Jew. "Half-Muslim"? What kind of stupid is that? How can someone be half a religion? That doesn't even make sense.

    And then there's this:
    "You don't become a Christian by being raised by a Christian mom. One is not "always a Christian". You BECOME a Christian when you believe Jesus is the Son of God and you are born of the Spirit of God. If you read the Gospels you will find out how one becomes a Christian. It doesn't happen by osmosis."

    Logic dictates that it follows that you don't become Muslim by simply having a Muslim dad. I didn't see "That's Reality" complete the thought.

    December 25, 2007 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  24. M. Bachman

    Obama is will make a GREAT President, he has my VOTE. Clinton
    has been in DC to long and can't
    change her way of thinking. I don't know who would be Pres. her or

    December 25, 2007 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  25. AlwaysforHillary, NYC

    He may be a Christian, but with the name of Barrack HUSSEIN OBAMA (ryhymes with Osama), you can understand WHY people would worry!

    Forget about his religion, though, this man is just NOT EXPERIENCED ENOUGH TO BE PRESIDENT!!! PERIOD!!! He is naive and cowardly! Even in the state senate, he voted "present" 130 times!!! That's the same as not committing himself or saying maybe, or I'm not sure! IS THIS THE KIND OF PERSON WE WANT IN THE OVAL OFFICE????



    December 25, 2007 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
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