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. JohnG, Oakland CA

    Sad how Hillary (through surrogates) uses the same bs attacks on Obama that the republican slime machine uses. This whole "muslim" thing is a sad, desperate story line that Ms. "Nixon in a pants suit" loves seeing repeated. This is why a vote for Hillary = "Four more years!" – of Bush!

    The plus is – these attacks rebound on the attacker. It bodes well for Obama in a general election. He can deflect theses republican slime attacks by staying above them (and he is already getting good practice running against bush-lite HRC), while Hillary will get more and more shrill, depressing Democratic turnout and encouraging ambivalent Republicans to come out and vote.

    December 23, 2007 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  2. Daniyal, Houston Texas

    The Islamaphobia has to stop.I think its disgusting how so many people question Obama being muslim like its a felony arrest record. People turned a blind eye on bush's alcoholism,drug use, and his suspect military record, But they pick on Obama cause his Dad's a muslim and he lived in a muslim country. Questions like that are just the mark of a bigot.

    December 23, 2007 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  3. Jim

    Phemi and Asma:

    Substantiate your accusations with actual support instead of making baseless claims. You are both Liars and misrepresenting facts to distort the truth. Worthless comments like yours are why politics suck.

    December 23, 2007 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  4. Randy

    Well I cannot vote for a guy who did not cover his heart during the National Athem he had his hands down by his waist in front of him, besides if you check on a web site it saids he's a muslins and his mom is white so htere ya go case closed

    December 23, 2007 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  5. Bozeman, Montana

    No matter the spin Obama puts on it, he has Muslim roots. It would not sit well with me to have a presidents with those roots nor one that has a Muslim name.

    December 23, 2007 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  6. Ben, Pittsburgh PA

    Just because Barack's mother wasn't firmly christian does not make him non-religous. It is possible for somone to become more religous.

    December 23, 2007 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  7. T. Tim, Lodi, WI

    2008–Get ready, the Inquisition reincarnates as political mudslinging. Obama Osama, Muslim vs.
    Christian, "crusade," I'm holiler than thou!, etc. ad nauseum. American politics will sink to new lows, reflecting the immaturity, uncivility and us-vs.-them nature of politics USA.

    December 23, 2007 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  8. stan pitts pa

    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

    In america after 9/11 yes it became a crime, do you even follow the news? obama is a christian, most people born in differnet religions convert to christianity as they grow older and learn the truth, he is no exception, grow up america!

    December 23, 2007 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  9. E. C., Houston, Texas

    Yes, it certainly makes a difference if Obama is a practicing Muslim, especially since we are at war against terrorists who are Fundamental Muslims and fighting against the United States in a jhad. That he is a practicing Christian makes a difference, but it also makes no difference if Romney is a Mormon. Mormonism was founded in the United States and is a major part of our Early American everyone should have learned in school. What is a that no article about the stupid Clintons appears again in the Ticker section. Edwards is going to surprise all, for he is the only Democratic candidate speaking to REAL ISSUES and Identifying the REAL PROBLEMS and how to confront them. Obama has lofty ideals, but he has no experience and no information from experience that helps him define problems. Democrats should be supporting Edwards, not Clinton. Anyone BUT Hillary.

    December 23, 2007 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  10. Jaylee, Chicago, IL

    Oh how pathetic. Who cares if you're Muslim, Daoist, Zorastrian, Christian, Catholic, atheist? It shouldn't matter...what should matter is the ability to lead. By running around in circles concerning this issue, as if he's afraid to confront his family background with Islam, it makes one wonder if he'll be the same with other domestic/international issues. Who needs to write on his/her bio that they're a member of a certain church? It's like overcompensation. I don't think Obama gives voters enough credit. The majority of voters understand that most Muslims are not crazed lunatics bent on terrorism and also that just because glitzy Oprah is on your campaign doesn't mean that you can shy away from all the issues that face our nation today. By playing the race card and the "non-Muslim" card, the only thing that the Obamas are doing are sadly dividing our country.

    December 23, 2007 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  11. Jon, Palo Alto, CA

    Is Obama a Cubs or a White Sox fan? We need the TRUTH!

    December 23, 2007 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  12. stan pitts pa

    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.

    Posted By Jane, Tampa, Florida : December 23, 2007 11:53 am

    he is a christian and has been for the better part of his life, nothing wrong with him defending his christian faith, get a life! im actually glad he chose christ as an early adult, shows he has got good judgement!

    December 23, 2007 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  13. Fair,Washington DC

    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.

    Posted By S.K.M. Boston Mass : December 23, 2007 12:15 pm

    S.K. M.,

    I don't know if you say "mystifying Republican attack machine" because you like Obama want to act like it doesn't exist or you are new to american politics, either way the Republican Attack machine is very real and there is nothing mystifying about it and everytime someone talks about it to Obama he gives some off cuff answer like , "oh I think people are getting stressed by the polls." That may be right Mr. Obama , but just humor us voters and tell us your response to some of the things that Hillary and others say the Republicans are going to come at you with if you are the nominee. Just on the off chance that you aren't the second coming that everbody on both sides is so enamored with and you aren't allowed to just ride on your charisma and good speeches. Lets start with experience, you think Hillary is attacking you..ha...and please don't answer with that tired argument of coming back comparing your experience to the candidate attacking you, may sorta work with Hillary and the Democrats, but you may be across from John McCain, the former POW. When he gets through with you on experience , then he'll move to National Security and call you out on your stand on Iraq and Iran which you are using as a rallying cry in this primary, but could very well be used by that "mystifying Republican attack machine" against you in the general.

    December 23, 2007 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  14. Michelle O, Houston, Tx

    Now we can watch Obama play spin doctor again...

    Dad never practiced his Islamic faith while he was in his village in Africa... yeah right, and he was able to live without any repercussions in that village by not practicing his faith? What about his 4 wives?

    Yes and Obama was sent to the Muslim school while in Indonesia, even though an American or British school was avaliable for ex-pat kids.

    Cut me a break, this smooth talking guy is starting to sound more and more like a spin doctor supreme.

    Yes, let's nominate Obama! The republicans are eagerly awaiting this possibility – what a gift, Barack Hussein Obama, yep they have the writers working overtime already on the campaign if his occurs.

    No experience, and questionable background?

    Let him be a VP for 8 years then he can run with the big dogs, not now.

    December 23, 2007 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  15. Bill,chicago,Ill

    Thanx Obama, now Cruise on, still strong momentum.............

    December 23, 2007 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  16. kathy,nyc,ny

    Tell them Obama,tell 'em!

    December 23, 2007 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  17. Pedro, Los Angeles, CA

    Actually, I'm glad this came up. It had to have, sooner or later. Fact is, why does it matter what his faith is. Question should be, will he make a good President? I think everyone in this country (and the world) needs to distance themselves from religion as such and focus on humanity, compassion, care, love and giving. Doing stuff in the name of religion leads to nothing but trouble. Just look at what's going on around us in the world.

    December 23, 2007 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  18. Brenda,ks,mo

    Obama for American=Greatness!

    December 23, 2007 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  19. Bill, Streamwood, IL

    This is another in a long line of bogus "issues" raised by conservative Republicans.

    I would have thought that concern about a potential candidate's religion; whether he or she be Roman Catholic, Mormon, or Muslim; was put to rest in 1960.

    Apparently GOP Evangicals belive that, by ressurecting this issue, they might gain political advantage.

    I hope that U.S. voters are too educated to follow their pathetic lead.

    December 23, 2007 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  20. Bill NY, NY

    With most of the comments posted here!
    I guess you can only run for the Presidency if and only if you are a Christian.
    Don't know what happened to separation of church and state?

    December 23, 2007 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  21. suzzy,dartmouth,nh

    There are slow thinkers and slow assimilars in this country than any other. Now Obama has to go back for them each time they get memory loss.
    Obama is a christian folks!
    Obama 08!

    December 23, 2007 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  22. Bob, Tampa Bay Area, Florida

    I am a Christian. The type that doesn't attend church, pray to the lord, or devote my time trying to preach to others.

    However what I do do is follow Christian Ethos and consider myself a person of integrity, moral courage and unquestionable dedication to the principles that make us Americans. I am also a retired member of the US Military but that does not make me any more of a patriot then an American whom never wore the nations uniform.

    The University I graduated from had a large Muslim student body, as most Universities in England do. However the second line it its mission statement was that it is a Christian Ethos based institution and every student followed the schools rules in spirit and practice as my University had room for all.

    The two most impressive candidates in this election are Barack Obama and Mike Huckabee. Why? because they both relate to the people. Wake up and smell the coffee Hillary, Mitt, Rudy et. al! The old establishment is on its way out and not a moment to soon!

    Vox Populi, Vox Dei

    (The voice of the people is the voice of God!)

    December 23, 2007 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  23. steve

    Obama Has Been A Member Of Trinity United Church Of Christ For Twenty Years. Monroe Anderson stands up for Reverend Wright's ministry, "For the past two decades, Barack Obama has been a faithful member of the congregation at Chicago's Trinity United Church of Christ."

    December 23, 2007 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  24. jewel minneapolis mn

    Obama cant seem to decide what he is.I believe he has his own private agenda going,which we know nothing about, on his wanting to be president of the USA. Just something to think about???

    December 23, 2007 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  25. chavez,california

    Here is more truth.

    IN his memoir, Obama has put it clear that he is a christian.

    Obama Was Baptized And Attends Church Once a Week When He is Able. In the Audacity of Hope, Obama wrote, "I was finally able to walk down the aisle of Trinity United Church of Christ one day and be baptized." In 2004, he "attend[ed] the 11 a.m. Sunday service at Trinity in the Brainerd neighborhood every week - or at least as many weeks as he is able. His pastor, Wright, has become a close confidant." When asked about his decision to be baptized, Obama said "Kneeling beneath that cross on the South Side of Chicago, I felt I heard God's spirit beckoning me," he said of his walk down the aisle of the Trinity United Church of Christ. "I submitted myself to his will and dedicated myself to discovering his truth." [Audacity of Hope, p.208]

    How many times do people wanna twist the truth!

    December 23, 2007 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
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