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. ben,ks,mo

    Didn't CNN had to send a journist to go and investigate this issue in indonesia? C'mon CNN, I thought we are past this now.
    I will vote for Obama for his record not this fluff!

    December 23, 2007 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  2. Becky B

    What in God's name has happenened to the separation of church and state. One of the fundamentals of our constitution?? And by the way, Obama has been a professor of constitutinal law. In him I trust. All of this backlash can be laid directly on the GOP for pandering to the far right, born-again zealots in order to get votes!
    Obama is NOT a MUSLIM but I would not much care if he was. He has my vote!
    OBAMA 08

    December 23, 2007 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  3. cathy,boston,ma

    I saw Obama pitching a snowball it was funny.

    December 23, 2007 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  4. nicole

    CNN and FOX, together as always in ignorance.

    CNN didn't question the 'weapons of mass destruction' claim but now goes 'deep' into trying to prove that Obama is a Muslim?

    Perhaps instead of doing entertainment articles (what shoes? new divorce? shocking personal secret! scandal! ) dressed up to look like actual substantive political news, CNN could hire people who are intelligent enough to truly discuss politics?

    Instead of pandering to the lowest mindset of the audience, why not provide some substance to help enlighten, educate, the audience?

    Those of us needing more, really have to totally avoid CNN.

    December 23, 2007 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  5. S.K.M. Boston Mass

    I find it amusing how we're still hearing, "Obama will never become president, he'll be destroyed by the mystifying force that is the republican attack machine." Give me a break. Hillary's camp has dug up everything they can, made up stuff where there was nothing, hit him low so many times, and yet he's like the hulk; HE JUST GROWS STRONGER!
    Go ahead, let CNN continue to call him "Osama". Let his opponents degrade themselves with outright smears. The truth will set us free.

    December 23, 2007 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  6. Julius,nevada

    It is sad how low Clintons Inc. will bend with the help of CNN.

    I have been life long republican voting for Obama!

    December 23, 2007 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  7. James, Cedar Rapids, Iowa

    I don't trust Obama. His statement/s in this piece contradict what he says in his book–Dreams from my father. He speaks from both ends of his mouth just to get elected. He should go ahead and admit that he had a Muslim upbringing, and there is nothing wrong with that.

    Richardson 08.

    December 23, 2007 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  8. Marianne Wilks, Alexandria, VA

    Go Obama!

    With the Bush, Bush, Bush, Clinton, Clinton, Bush, Bush administrations, we need real change. Americans everywhere are feeling disenfranchised with the political process, as it seems that only the well connected are elected to the White House, despite their qualifications.

    Obama will unite Americans and bring integrity and hope to the White House, something we so desperately need.

    December 23, 2007 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  9. Hameed T

    I am Muslim and deeply offended that Obama is denying his Muslim heritage. Is it just to get elected? Where is integrity in all this? People of all faiths should be able to run as president.

    December 23, 2007 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  10. DeAngelo Jones, Chicago, IL.

    A candidate's religion or religious background should be a non-issue in political discourse. Religion informs ones values but so does education, family upbringing, culture, and life experiences. The sad thing is that a candidate's religious affiliation is not a religious issue at its root but a veiled economic issue. Major religious organizations fund political campaigns so candidates have a financial obligation to appease those constituents and their beliefs. A candidate's voting record and position on policies should be the focus of an informed electorate.

    December 23, 2007 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  11. Mrs. America

    News wouldn't keep reporting on religion if the people didn't keep eating it up. I'm so sick of people either bible thumping or having to defend their religion that I'd probably vote for an agnostic or athiest if one were running.

    December 23, 2007 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  12. Ayyub, Richmond, Va.

    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.

    Posted By Phemi, DC metro area : December 23, 2007 10:24 am

    You're pathetic, He's not Muslim. He really has no Muslim backround if his father was athiest and He went to a REGULAR SCHOOOL in Indonesia, which has both Christians and Muslims and Why would be change his name, it's his, are you a racist, do you hate christian arabs and africans too who may have an Arabic name. You sould like a Nazi towards Arabic and some Africans with some connection to the Arabic Language. You're lower than dirt! You're gonna call me a Muslim now and you don't even know me but you see my name's AYYUB (Job)! America we can't let everyone think we're ignorant and dumb. Do your homework before you go online and say completely FALSE claims. This is right out of the Republican Attack Mechine and if you're a Hillary Supporter you should be ashamed of yourself!

    December 23, 2007 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  13. Russell Gipe. Hendersonville,NC

    Just wondering about the picture on the internet that has been circulating with all the Presidential Nominees are saluting the US Flag , but not Senator Obama. Not to swift for someone wanting to be "Commander-in-Chief.Is it true, that he refused?

    December 23, 2007 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  14. Hameed T

    I am Hameed T writing again. After reading Obama's response second time, I got the impression that Obama thinks, or least gives the impression of thinking, that practising Islam is a dirty thing. Why else would he deny his Muslim heritage so vehemently?

    December 23, 2007 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  15. Mike, Arlington, VA

    For those who are Pro-Hillary, there are many, many, Democrats who can not stand her because she is a dishonest, fip-flop, inconsistent power-hungry liar. Just because we don't approve of her, that does not mean we are Republicans. (Or any less of a Democrat). Intelligence equals voting for a qualified person, not just anybody who just crawled from a rock and happens to be a Democrat. I've voted for Democrats all my life, gave donations and on most of their listserves, from Jim Webb, to Mark Warner, to Tim Kaine, to Al Gore. Please do not fool yourself, there are a lot of us who don't like Hillary. I just needed to post this message, because I am sick of people automatically assuming tha that it's the Repubican machine posting these anti-Hillary messages.

    December 23, 2007 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  16. Let the Leaders Lead, Arcadia, Iowa

    The Hiiliacs are at it again. Why don't you people understand she can not win. The craze has only been added to by the intillectual media, the same one that thinks we are all dummies. Wake up Democrats Hillary will push many of us to the othe side. I for one don't want to be responsible for splitting the party and letting the Republican have the white house again. Patience Texas, some village is about to get their idiot back and it can't be too soon.

    December 23, 2007 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  17. Chicago, IL

    It doesn't even matter what his religious background is. As long as he wants whats best for the American people then in my eyes he is the best candidate for presidency. People need to stop being so ignorant and open their eyes to the real issues at hand here.

    December 23, 2007 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  18. Ed from Ocean Gate NJ

    Socially evolved humans should tolerate whatever religion his fellow man chooses and defend to the death his right to believe. Old world religion is a dinosaur in the land of Science and Reason. Something to be dug up marveled over by archeologogists.

    December 23, 2007 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  19. Patrick Denver, CO

    This is ridiculous. It's nothing but the Republican smear machine trying to make Obama guilty by association (and he's not even associated with Islam in the first place). You might as well go around constantly asking Huckabee and Romney about how they're not associated with the Chirch of Satan and how this non-association with Satanism will affect their ability to perform as president, I mean, being (not) a Satanist and all, y'know...

    December 23, 2007 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  20. Mike Graham Longview, Texas

    It does not matter if Obama has a Muslim background.
    It does not matter if he is now a Christian.
    All that matters is that we elect the best person for the job of President of the United States.
    That person is Hillary Rodham Clinton.

    December 23, 2007 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  21. John, Des Moines, Iowa

    Julius from Nevada says he is a lifelong Republican voting for Obama. It makes perfect sense–a lot of hardcore Republicans are supporting Obama in the primaries so they can trounce him in the general elections. Republicans don't want to have to face the formidable Hillary machine.

    December 23, 2007 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  22. Justin Thornville Ohio

    So because he said he was raised Christian he is now a liar. I'm pretty sure that all but a few Americans are raised differently than Christian. All it means is that he believes in good and that jesus saved him. Oh and to do the right things like not lie, cheat, and steal. Gimme a break this man is not trying to lie to you he just doesn't want to be criticized for not being in bed with religion.

    December 23, 2007 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  23. SAZ Seattle, WA

    As a Muslim American Obama doesn't have my vote. I feel Obama has only perpetuated the stereotype that Muslims cannot be trusted- especially in places of leadership. Islam is the world's second largest religion- it's not ok to refer to Muslims as "those folks." That's fine if he wants to identify himself as a Christian- but why is the very thought of having anything to do with Islam like some sort of disease.

    I think Obma will be horrible at our foreign policy- just because his father was a "Muslim" in no way gives him an enhanced genetic predisposition to be a more gifted leader- even with Islamic countries. Islam is not some magic cult- where if you get the Muslim label your ok with the rest with of the crowd. Having been exposed to Muslim culture is not enough to show me he knows what he is doing. You need diplomatic skill and a lot of insight into the individual regional players, our next leader should have the ability to craft progressive relationships in the region.

    In addition may I remind folks that he did comment he was ok with bombing Pakistan whenever it pleased him- eventhough it is a soverign nation.

    In the United States you have the freedom to chose your faith- that's the beauty of America. That very right is what our forefathers struggled for and we as a society continue to do so today.

    December 23, 2007 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  24. Chris, Fort Collins, CO

    I think the disturbing part is how he says living there as a child gives him "insight into how these people think." These people? What does that mean? Muslims think differently than you and I? Is he trying to say they're all jihadists, or what? That's kind of offensive.

    December 23, 2007 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  25. Norv, Largo, FL

    I am neither a Republican or Democrat, people need to get their heads out of the sand, I do not have a problem with Islam, my problem is that none of the rest of Islam do anything to stop the violence, or join us in its oppression. They can speak hatred against the Unied States in our County, we have been attacked all over the world by Radical Islam. I am sure that Mr. Obama is a honorable man, but I as an American am not to trust any person with any type of Muslim background right now.

    Do not hide in the sand, this is the world we live in.


    December 23, 2007 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
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