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. Mike, Inglewood, CA

    How is it that a non-participatory father's religion is of any importance to the child?

    My favorite two comments:

    If he was a Christian why did he go to a Muslim school. To the writer: Do you know how many black Baptist children go to Catholic schools? Does this mean we should questions their Baptistness?

    To the poster that said Obama is for himself and "all" the black people he knows are not voting for him. Those limited amount of black people that you come into contact with, such as the "black gentleman" seems limited. In my interactions with family members, friends and others in my community, there is a shifting split of sorts between Obama and Clinton, not an overwhelming rejection of Obama. Just my thoughts.

    December 23, 2007 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  2. Surrealist, Fort Myers, FL

    There are so many other substantial reasons he would not be a good President, it is ludicrous to analyze his religious views.

    John Edwards–not for sale, dedicated to the common good. The only Presidential candidate of either party who has not waivered on his views and his agenda. The only Presidential candidate with the tools to represent all Americans and stand up to the powerful special interests and machinations in Washington–making sure our interests are always seated with him at any bargaining table.

    Thank God, we finally a candidate that all Americans (regardless of race, political affiliation, gender, or economic status) can truly trust to represent them in the White House.

    December 23, 2007 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  3. mary cawvey jacksonville florida

    Well I see it this way I feel he lslam and I belive he is hiding it and if I had to pick which canadate for the Dem. I would not pick hilary or obama he should have never been put on the ticket for a canadate we had better think about what we are doing before it's to late for all of us, I have been a dem. for 57 yrs but can't say I will vote Dem. this go round.

    December 23, 2007 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  4. jonathan,missouri

    His father is Kenyan, his mother was white – a charismatic fresh face breaks the race barrier as America’s first African-American presidential candidate”! Or so one would think, based on media coverage he is a muslim, that doesn't deter Mr. Obama from his vision to be the next president of United states.
    There is little negative about Clintons 0n this race. Enough of baised reporting!!

    December 23, 2007 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  5. Ajay Jain

    "Kerry Apology for MUSLIM remark on Obama":

    Kerry does not have to apologize for STATING FACTS:

    Kerry said ""It's probably not something that appeals to him, but I like the fact that his name is Barack Hussein Obama and his father was a Muslim and this his paternal grandmother is a Muslim,” he said at the time."

    Yes Obama's father is/was a Muslim and his mother an American White female.

    So what! Hillary/Bill do not have to get defensive about their comments, language, remarks on any forum be it Charlie Rose Show or Kerry's event endorsing Hillary. There is no parsing or apology required.

    Obama needs to be brought down from the pedestal.

    Go Hillary44 08!

    December 23, 2007 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  6. AJ, IL

    Why is this even an issue? Obama has already stated his personal experience growing up. He does not practice Islam and has been a member of Trinity United Church for 15 years (thanks to his wife). It is amazing that the media chooses to focus on Obama's experience in the years of 6 to 20 as the most relevant. Why isn't the media focused on Hillary's or Edward's or Romney's or Giuliani's or McCains or Huckabee's youth and young adulthood? Claims could easily be made that Hillary was a Republican in her youth.

    December 23, 2007 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  7. Andy, New York, New York

    Obama says he is not a Muslim, even though he has a Muslim name. Hey, many blacks and Hispanics have names GIVEN to us by colonial masters from Europe, but we are not European in appearance. How about a black basketball player named Vince CARTER (Jimmy Carter), or a black football player named Reggie BUSH (Georg WH and Dubya)? Are these pro athletes linked to partisan politics? So what is in a name is not so much imprtant as what is inside the person who was given the name! Obama may no have Hillary's experience, but he is a lot cleaner and more believable. That's why such inexperience is giving experience a run for her money! America wants someone it can trust, not just someone with experience.

    December 23, 2007 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  8. Charles Toronto Ont, Canada

    We all knows that CNN is a Second to Fox against Sen. Barak Obama. But I do not know why they Hiding their fact. Every one Knows that they are behind Hillary which is Find let them show up. CNN have a right to Choose who they like. But Yet they ran like they are not one of our own. I wach CNN since they were a Bush Fan Becuaes I am a Pres. Bush Fan Too. I know who they are Come on People!!!!!!!!!!!!

    CNN Please show up

    December 23, 2007 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  9. Daniel, NY

    In some good news, Obama leads Clinton (and is up 16%) in the latest NH poll.

    December 23, 2007 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  10. S.E.Murad, Karachi, Pakistan

    Whether Obama is Christian or Muslim is irrelevant. The real election question is his African background. Additionally, what is wrong with being a Muslim? The trouble with the Western/ Christian World is that they do not know or understand Islam. The Western Media is totally biased. Part of the fault is ours. We have not taken the trouble to tell non-muslims about ourselves. For instance, does the Christian world know that the Virgin Birth is part of our Religion? If anybody wants to learn the basics of Islam, please do get in touch.

    December 23, 2007 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  11. Mark

    I don't trust Obama on this issue.
    1. He has a Muslim heritage and he disregards it because it might hurt his political image.
    2. He is conveniently using the Indonesia factor as 'foreign policy experience' but he denies it in relation to Islamic influence.
    3. He is talking too much about his Christian raising and belonging to the Trinity United Church of Christ to impress the voters.
    4. And before becoming a member of the Trinity United Church of Christ, what has he done? He joined the Church when he decided to get involved with politics?

    And this is just about integrity because he insists so much this is his strong point (I doubt).

    When it comes to real issues about policies and experience which we actually need to ask for the job he is running for, he is below ALL other candidates.

    I prefer to go with Hillary or Biden or Edwards for 2008.

    December 23, 2007 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  12. Rob, Boston, Massachusetts

    "I don't trust Obama. His statement/s in this piece contradict what he says in his book–Dreams from my father."

    What? James, this is exactly what he says in that book, as well as in Audacity of Hope. Obama as a person as well as his campaign have been wonderfully consistent with his entire message, one of the best reasons to trust both his judgement and his quality experience.

    December 23, 2007 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  13. glider187

    "It’s time for a president to stand up and remind the American people that we have promises to keep-promises to the world, promises to one another, promises to our children and to our grandchildren."

    Make a New Year's Resolution with me...


    December 23, 2007 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  14. Farrell, Houston, Tx

    Our neighbor living next door to us is more likely to be Muslin than Obama. Obama has been thoroughly investigated at the highest level with our tax paying dollars but we can't say that about our neighbors. I'd feel safer living next door to Obama than any other politician.

    December 23, 2007 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  15. Mark, NYc

    It is hypocritical that Barack Obama has to defend the fact that his father grew up in a Muslim region of Kenya. Meanwhile, it would be political suicide if anyone even DARED raise the issue of a candidate's Jewishness. Wake up America, and acknowledge the gross double standards of our society. I am neither Muslim nor Arab, yet am appalled by such lunacy. p.s. I doubt that my comment will pass the censors.

    December 23, 2007 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  16. mike, dallas, TX

    Yet again, CNN shows its participation in a campaign smear about Obama. It is ludicrous and completely dishonest to post this story at "1:11 PM" as if this is the latest and freshest political news about Obama on the campaign trail. On other impartial sites this story showed up yesterday and it is already buried under more important and current developments while you guys regurgitate the story to keep it alive as a propaganda tool.

    Well CNN, you want towrite new stories about Obama? Here is some help:

    1. A new poll today shows Obama passing Hillary in NH

    2. One of the largest news papers in the country, the Dallas Morning News endorses Obama.

    3. ONLY Obama beats EVERY republican candidate. And he beats them by a larger margin than anybody else.

    Let me know if you want more.

    December 23, 2007 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  17. Marko, Chicago IL

    Reading some of the comments in here just make me laugh. It's amazing how many ignorant, racist jerks live in this country.

    December 23, 2007 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  18. Carol, East Windsor, NJ

    No...we don't even want to go there with this Obama being president...not after the Fox News Specials I viewed where the crazy Islam extremists are preaching Muslims will be taking over the "White House" soon! Wise up people...This is American, if you still want it that way.

    December 23, 2007 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  19. Mark, Brown Summit NC

    If Bush and Clinton and maybe, Mitt and Rudi are Christians. Well Rudi cannot be a Catholic, he is dirty with Divorce, Infidelity and for no Abortion rights and for Gay rights. I do not want any of these fine Christians to lead my country and guide our laws. No religious government for me!

    December 23, 2007 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  20. Sam, Cary, NC

    And i thought USA was a secular country... Apparently it is not! Shame on Obama to have felt the need to defend himself on this. A president should be elected based on his policies and how he can make the country better. He defends his Muslim heritage as if it was a diseases or a crime to be from a Muslim background.

    Shame on you Obama! Also Shame on anyone who uses someone's personal beliefs as a negative point against him. Let the best person win!

    December 23, 2007 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  21. Anonymous

    I don't understand why a black man without any experiences with a muslim background is in the race to become the next president of the USA. I am not from USA, but it upset me. He got no chance again the republican

    December 23, 2007 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  22. Marge Hibbing Mn

    What difference does it make what his religion is, Romney is Mormon, and I have no idea what Clinton, Edwards or the rest of the bunch is.

    They should be more concerned with Obama's action ,,,wanting to bomb Iran and missing all those votes. The people who refer to a fable should be asking different questions.

    December 23, 2007 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  23. Vic Novosad, Sugar Land, Texas

    What a great way to portray our country's true freedom of religion. Among the candidates this time are a Morman (Romney); a Catholic (Biden); a Church of Christ/Muslim (Obama); Baptist (McCain et al); Clinton (Methodist)and on and on. To refer to each candidate in a slurring way about his/her religion is not an attractive thing to do. What matters is character, which should be obvious by now. And what does it matter that Barack Obama's middle name is Hussein? My wife's name is Maurice (a male name to be sure), and she has no connection whatsoever to the famous French cabaret singer, Maurice Chevalier! Think about that. With so little time left, we really should be concerned only with policies and qualifications.

    December 23, 2007 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  24. john taylor,toronto canada

    Religion show not play a roll in becoming President..Just so long as the person is not a muslim..

    December 23, 2007 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |

    I have said it before and I'll say it again, being Muslim is NOT such a negative matter as the media likes to point out– and even as an Obama supporter I think he's walking on thin ice with this one since Islam is the fastest growing religion in the United for thought people, I thought the whole "freedom of religion" thing took care of this like 200 years ago.

    December 23, 2007 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
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