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. richard,Indianola,Iowa

    Good job CNN. As undecided voter, Obama just got my vote!

    December 23, 2007 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  2. Arshad

    You guys should not use a distorted headline. He does NOT have a muslim background, period. So you should not use it even within a quote and help spreading the lies and distortion being propagated by Clinton campaign. Clintons know they are yesterday's old news and their message is not resonating with people and that's why spreading lies and distortion. A responsible media can not and should not help a failing campaign to spread false rumor.

    December 23, 2007 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  3. carrol,townsend,pa

    Mr. Obama graduated from Columbia University and Harvard Law School; he became the first black editor of the Harvard Law Review. He later settled in Chicago, joined a law firm and began attending and helping local churches.

    Mr. Obama is married to Michelle Robinson and they have two daughters, Malia and Sasha. In 1996, he was elected to the Illinois state Senate. Eight years later, he became a U.S. senator from Illinois.Obama has said time and time again he has been a member of the Trinity United Church of Christ for the past 15 years. The church is in the south side of Chicago.

    You get it CNN.Get over this!

    December 23, 2007 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  4. Phil Memphis, TN

    Here we go again. Muslim, Mormon, Baptist, "Mr. McCain have you accepted Jesus Christ as your lord and savior?". When CNN and the rest of the media finally get around to reporting on the candidates stances on the issues that are really important let me know. It is my hope that whoever is elected checks their religious beliefs at the door to the white house.

    December 23, 2007 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  5. Jose Card - Independent

    Obama gave a truthful answer to his faith question. I started to like him better after he and his wife toned down the racial card.

    December 23, 2007 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  6. wesley,boston,ma

    The same reasons that President Bush took us to war in Iraq is the same reason they are trying to use slime politics on Obama who has integrity and character.

    Obama has addressed this issue so many times. He has said he is a christian and he attends a church in chicago.

    ooh, ya,
    He also said they have a nice choir down there 🙂
    Wake up America and confront your fears with facts!

    December 23, 2007 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  7. gail,des moines,iowa

    This is the question Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s camp is asking about Sen. Barack Obama.

    Let the Games begin again with only 7days left!
    Go Obama, still suporting you to the end!

    December 23, 2007 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  8. Hawk,Texas

    I was talking to an old black gentleman last night and asked if he was going to vote for obama, he said no. he was voting for hillary. i asked why. he told me that obama was only for obama.but that hillary would be for all people. most blacks that i have talked to do not want obama.

    December 23, 2007 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  9. Justin, Columbus, OH

    I am at a loss why Obama has to justify his religious background so much. I am not a Muslim but, not electing a person because based on their religious background goes completely against our constitution's segregation between religion and politics

    December 23, 2007 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  10. Ben,des moines Iowa

    CNN and Clinton sarrogates is the medium Hillary is using to attack Obama?
    Bring it on and you know what, Hillary fall as She hit on the one tactic that will endear her to people around here – attack him for the crime of being Muslim. Tell us!

    December 23, 2007 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  11. Dorian, Brentwood, Ca

    To Patrick from Lincoln, NE:
    First of all, you claim that Republicans and Hillary have been smearing Obama abut being a Muslim. I am constantly reading and listening to what is going on in these campaigns and have never heard Hillary smear Obama because of his religion (whatever he claims it to be). And, by the way, in so vehemently distancing himself from it, he leaves the impression that practicing Islam is something dirty, something to be ashamed of. He was asked about his "Muslim background", not his "Radical Islamic terrorist background". I think his attitude is an insult to the millions who practice the Islamic religion. Have we ever heard him say, "It is a fine religion, but not one that I have practiced"? I don't think so. He just makes a big deal out of being a Christian and NOT, God forbid, a Muslim. If he wants to be a viable candidate, he should weigh his words more carefully, and think about the impact of how they will be received. It's just another example of his shallowness. He'll say anything and do anything to get elected, including denigrating a decent religion and its followers.

    December 23, 2007 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  12. J. McKinney SW MO

    I just saw something on TV this morning (Sun., 23rd Dec) that scared me to death. I watch the news stories all morning, so unfortunately I am not sure which show it was on–"Face the Nation" I think, but not sure. It showed a short clip of both Obama and Clinton giving their sort of "closing speeches". Clinton was talking sensibly of the problems she thinks the US and world will be facing, and how they will have to be met, etc. Obama was hollering "Fired up, Ready to Go" three times, and the crowd was shouting it back to him. This showed a lot of enthusiasm for Obama, but ...... This is choosing the PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, not a sporting event!! This seemed to me like just a mindless chant, and could have been a cub scout meeting, or a fun thing for a crowd with an average IQ of 57 or so–NOT a group of people you would hope would be voting sensibly for President of the US. I wish Obama would say more of what he really thinks he can accomplish, rather than what he WISHES he MIGHT BE ABLE to accomplish. We all wish and hope, but we desperately need someone who is capable of really DOING this stuff. We need someone with experience and determination. WE NEED HILLARY!!!

    December 23, 2007 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  13. mary,nashua,newhempshire

    CNN,So much for that Obama/Edward ticket will be my choice!

    December 23, 2007 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  14. George

    Why do republicans always try to portray muslims as evil people. A third of the world population is muslim. The majority of Muslims don't even live in the middle east. Why can't we build bridges with them vs acting with disrespect and ignorance twards their religion and culture.

    I know many Muslims personally and I don't need fox news to shape my opinion about them.

    December 23, 2007 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  15. Jane, Tampa, Florida

    Yet again, Obama shows he is a man of selfishness. These spurious claims that he is somehow open-minded are disproven by his own comments, showing he is not above exploiting his religion to get elected. He somehow finds the idea that he is Muslim offensive, and is willing to do anything to prove his Christianity and win the election.

    December 23, 2007 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  16. victoria,boston,ma

    Good point. Likely though, the first Republican candidate who mentions that Hussein was raised as a Muslim will be accused of "intolerance."

    Go Obama!

    December 23, 2007 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  17. Mark R. Fort lauderdale FL

    You can live in your "dream world" of how things are supposed to be, or you can live in the world as it really is. I know that Obama never practiced Islam and is now a christian. Those truths will not stop the republicans from a huge whispering smear campaign if he is the democratic nominee. They will compare his name, Barack Hussein Obama, with the names Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein, and they will say that he really is a Muslim planning to take over the US. They will all say publicly how disgraceful this is and that they do not believe this, but privately they will sow their seeds of fear, as they always do. None of this is any reflection on Mr. Obama, of course, but that won't matter. They will continue with the politics of fear because it has been so successful for them in the past.

    December 23, 2007 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  18. henry,ft meyers,florida

    Isn't this what Sen Bob Kelley apologized for the other day. How long does it take people to get their facts straight. Obama is a practicing christian. Period!

    December 23, 2007 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  19. valentine,WI

    To say the least,No religious test to be an American president!

    December 23, 2007 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  20. Jacobs, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

    Now America on a good track of finally settling the critical problem with the muslim world by bringing Obama—a top tier analytical Christian whose father is thought to be a muslim—into its political scene. To have such a citizen in the land of opportunities is really a great opportunity by itself. The question remains, is America ready to take advantage of such an opportunity?

    December 23, 2007 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  21. Peter,fl

    Very sad. Well, I guess what can we really expect from the right-wing–so full of hatred for a very caring, honorable and inspirational American Senator. This is just another good example of what the right-wing does best. All I can say is, "Go Obama Go!"

    Peace, Joy and Merry Christmas to you and your families!

    December 23, 2007 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  22. Dave, Riverdale, NJ

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

    In order to really win the war on terrorism, we need someone who knows how they think. Ask any general and they will tell you the same.

    December 23, 2007 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  23. John, Des Moines, Iowa

    I agree with Christine from Atlanta. If Obama becomes the nominee the Republicans will annihilate him, and it is not improbable that he will lose more than 35 states. I get the sense that a lot of pro-Obama posts on this forum are from Republicans hoping precisely for such an outcome. Hopefully the democrats will not make the mistate of nominating Obama.

    December 23, 2007 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  24. Anonymous

    Dear Mr. Obama,

    Should you get elected, how would you take your oath as President?

    "I Barak Hussein Obalma do ........" or
    " I Barack Obalma do,..........." or by any other reference to to you?
    Should you not use the first form, would you not be deceiving the public of your paternity and be ungrateful for the man who fathered you?

    Mahnda Katugaha

    December 23, 2007 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  25. Jacobs

    Now America on a good track of finally settling the critical problem with the muslim world by bringing Obama—a top tier analytical Christian whose father is thought to be a muslim—into its political scene. It seems that America is blessed in having all the playing cards that it badly needs in all the times.

    December 23, 2007 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
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