December 23rd, 2007
02:30 PM ET
5 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. Vic, Las Vegas, Nevada

    VOTE FOR OBAMA ON HIS RECORD!

    WHAT RECORD?

    He's a decietful wanna be that rallies the mindless or rather 'sports minded' crowds rather than those of us looking for substance.

    Every time I hear him talk about HIS accomplishments in the Senate, I choke. He's the 'also signed',...NOT THE AUTHOR!

    But to hear Barak tell it, he's the MAN! That's perhaps his ambition, it is not reality.

    Do not think for a minute the Republicans will not Swift Boat Barak Hussein Obama. They will destroy him and we'll be another step closer to a fascist nation.

    And, if you think for a minute he can survive an ambitious Republican attack, you better quit smokin the whacky tabackee.

    If the neo cons can tear down a true patriot like John (turned Bushie) McCain, well then, you can consider Mr. OpraBama an appetiser for them.

    I can not help but agree with a previous post, that it must be the republicans making these WALK ON WATER OPRABAMA POSTS. As for the people who will be caucasing, well I gotta believe they're smarter than to swallow all the OpraBama lies and hype.

    December 23, 2007 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  2. Tom, Danvers, MA

    To those of you who are so "stunned" that being a muslim would be so problematic, you do read the news right? Nearly all the world's problems are Muslim related. Muslims fight Christians, Hindus, Jews, Buddhists. Do Christians fight any of them? Hindus? Buddhists? Do they fight other religions? No, what is the common denominator for all these fights?? Muslims. By pretending this isnt true, by pretending that Islam is not violent and intolerant, you are doing the terrorists work for them.

    December 23, 2007 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  3. Rebecca Mac Pherson Phoenix Arizona

    Personally the idea that he came from a multi-cultural background would be a positive one in my opinion.
    To be quite honest he shouldn't be giving in to the right-wing fundamentalist racists who believe that everyone has to be a gun-toting, war mongering, Christian fundamentalist to be a good person. His intelligence and his dedication to the improvement of the American lifestyle, economy, and completely destroyed world-image is what makes him an attractive cantidate to me and I wouldn't care if he were black or white, Muslim or Christian, or a coffee or tea drinker.

    I say if someone in his family sometime practiced Islam then good for them. Perhaps with someone as President who understands that Muslims are simply people just like us then we can escape the attitude that we should participate in the wholesale destruction of their communities and slaughter of their people like many Americans sadly believe we should

    December 23, 2007 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  4. B Wer, Tyler, Texas

    A WISE RESPONSE AND PERHAPS EVEN TRUTHFUL, BUT NOTICE HE STILL DID NOT ANSWER THE WOMANS ORIGINAL QUESTION:

    One of the women asked him how his "Muslim background" would affect his decisions as president.

    ???

    December 23, 2007 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  5. Obama Supporter, Boise Idaho

    Obama is our only chance to get away from the corporation-bowing politics that is so accepted in this country.. The fact that his middle name is Hussein is a non-issue. It's a very populary name in the world, not un-like John here in the U.S... Get over your fear of people who are different and start looking at the real issues. And he does'nt say that his mother was his christian influence. He says she raised him, and that he as always been a Christian (i.e. was never self proclamed a muslim). And again, why would it matter anyway?

    December 23, 2007 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  6. Columbus, Ohio

    Dear CNN:
    I have been watching the Situation Room, reading headlines on your website, and EVERYTHING is slanted negative towards Obama.
    My question to you is... Why???? Is it that Obama should "Wait his turn" as some "EXPERTS" may say or are you indebted to the Clinton's?
    The only thing I can say is January 3rd, 2008 is going to speak Volumes. The American People want authenticity, and a new way of thinking to govern this country back to greatness again. You have to admit the Old ways of governing is NOT working in this Global world.
    In response to this headline, WHO CARES!! BUSH 43 considers himself a Christian and over his past 8 years treated the American People like we were second class citizens. So really ask yourself should we really care??

    December 23, 2007 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  7. Dan, TX

    Clinton was raised republican, was a practicing republican and worked to elect republicans. That is a fact.

    Perhaps that's how she learned her campaign tactics.

    The republicans will have nothing to say, Clinton has dug up everything. Obama is the most vetted candidate we have. Who knows what will come out of Clinton's white house papers that for the moment are secret. When the republicans get the leaks and start spreading them. The republicans will mop the floor with her.

    There's nothing they can do with Barack Hussein Obama that hasn't already been done. Don't want to vote for Obama because Hillary Clinton and her machine made you afraid – fine. All we have to fear is fear itself. I am not afraid to win. OBAMA 08.

    December 23, 2007 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  8. Richard, West Palm Beach, FL

    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

    Posted By Randy : December 23, 2007 1:13 pm

    -------–

    MILLIONS OF AMERICANS DO NOT PUT THEIR HAND ON THEIR HEART FOR THE NATIONAL ANTHEM. They show their respect by standing at attention, singing the words, and applauding at the end as Obama did. The only thing "CLOSED" is your mind.

    December 23, 2007 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  9. jH,iowa

    While it's exciting to think about the possible collapse of the Clinton/DLC wing of the Democratic Party, which gave us many of the deep structural problems we face today – accelerating deindustrialization via NAFTA, parasitic finance capital run amok via repeal of Glass-Steagall, anti-democratic media conglomeration via the Telecommunications Act of 1996 – please keep in mind the following:

    – Not to excuse Hillary's support for empire, but Obama's opposition to the War, while refreshing, was a far easier call for what was essentially a local politician; he did not have to face the intense pressures that politicians on the national stage did. Given his votes to continue funding for the war, people should retain a little agnosticism about him.

    – If you want to see some evidence of where Obama's votes have materially affected working and middle class Americans,, look at his vote in favor of the Bankruptcy Act,which was essentially written by the banking and credit card industry. As far as I've seen, he's gottten a free ride on this one. It's a shame no one has called him on it, since it's one of the most anti-consumer pieces of legislation in quite a while, and will be seen as such as the credit/mortgage/financial crisis escalates.

    I'd urge people to maintain a little healthy skepticism about anyone who's seeking power, especially in this fallen age. The answer is to revive democracy,economic and political, first in our localities, and then on a national stage, and as a consequence force politicians to respond. Excessive expectations of an individual Savior are themselves evidence of future failure and disappointment.
    An independent for Barack!

    December 23, 2007 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  10. Mike, Winona, MN

    it seems like republicans and opponents of obama cant find anything bad to say about him so they are acusing him of being a muslim. that alone shows me that he is a strong candidate and deserves my vote. The sad thing is that we were all under the impression that our war was on terror and extremists not on mainstream islam, i beleive that by raising this as a concern we are sneding the wrong message to all moderats muslims in the US and all over the world that we beleive that being muslim is bad. from what i personally know and experienced muslims in america have the lowest crime rates, highest education levels, best reputation, morality and have been and still are good members of american society for many decades. America should wake up and be careful not to be driven back and repeat again the days of oppression, segregation and the holocaust that our ancestors have fought so hard to eliminate! lets not fall backwards, lets move forward!!

    December 23, 2007 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  11. Jessica, El Paso, TX

    "I am disgusted by those fundamentalists who are abusing the Islamic religion by perpetueting violence and fear, but I will not runaway from my religion because of them."
    Posted By Muhammed, Detroit, Michigan : December 23, 2007 10:26 am

    Thanks Muhammed for this comment. I think more Muslims around the world should speak out against the fundamentalists.

    As a Hillary supporter, it saddens me when fellow supporters in these blogs use Barack's name and Muslim heritage for cheap political shots. That's just a name and a religion, and neither of those are bad things. Barack's background should not be used against him, on the contrary, it should be praised. For so long, our "representative" government has NOT REALLY represented the heterogeneous melting pot of the American culture. Not all of us are rich, white, Christian men. So I find it great for our democracy that someone like Barack actually has a shot at the presidency. But, with that said, I don't think that Barack is up to par for the task at hand, and it has nothing to do with his race or religious background (in fact, I think he may be the one person who can break all the race barriers). For me, the deal breakers are his lack of experience on a national scale as well as his lack of a core set of political convictions. I think that maybe in a few years, when he has more experience and accomplishments under his belt, as well as when he figures out that "coasting" through the political spectrum and not taking firm stances on explosive issues may actually be counterproductive, I may consider him for the presidency. But not now. This is Hillary's turn.

    December 23, 2007 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  12. Tom B

    I don't trust Hillary but I trust Obama even less. Why does he have to go overboard to try and convince people that he is a Christian? It's as if he is pandering to people who are suspicious of non-christians. He does not have the courage to say that religion should be non-issue in politics. Will he have the courage to take a stand on other issues?

    Richardson 08

    December 23, 2007 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  13. Ms. Simon

    I'm glad that he cleared this up. Sadly, I know people who stated they wouldn't vote for him solely because of his name and the fact that it's similar to Osama.

    December 23, 2007 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  14. Ludlow, San Antonio, Tx

    Questions about Sen. Obama's religious beliefs are driven partly by bigotry, dirty politics and a whole lot of ignorance. I am looking forward to saying with pride: President Obama

    lb

    December 23, 2007 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  15. Aron Flagg, Cleveland Heights, OH

    What ever happened to religious freedom in this country. Who cares what religion he, or anyone, is? Americans need to get over their relgious intolerences and get on with their lives.

    December 23, 2007 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  16. rf braintree,mass

    The debates over the personalities are just more of the same circus (in the 'bread and circuses' that we, the masses, are kept pacified with). Many people hope and believe that change can really emanate from one man or woman. One charismatic candidate can effect change to a system when they operate from within it, front for it. None of the front runners, in this US election or in any that have taken place thus far are anything but corporate lackeys, regardless of what they might profess and promise. expect Mr. Obama. The cats are forever promising more cheese to the mice.

    December 23, 2007 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  17. Nando,Florida

    I guess some Americans want us to walk around like we are on the set of KINGDOM OF HEAVEN!!!!!!!!

    These BIBLE BOWLERS are why we are in this WAR in the first Place.
    They are the one's Who PUT KING GEORGE BACK IN POWER.

    BARAK should have slaped each one with A BIBLE.
    AND SAID THIS JUDGE NOT LESS YE BE JUDGED!!!!!!

    THE WORDS OF JESUS OF NAZERETH

    December 23, 2007 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  18. RuthieM

    Afterall Obama's mother and father divorced when Obama was 2 and his father being an aeithiest sure didn't give him much of any religion or it looks like sure didn't have time to teach or preach anything to his 1 or 2 year old.

    December 23, 2007 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  19. janet, Colleyville TX

    Barack Obama...

    you say your father lived in Kenya, and met your mother...how then did your birthplace be in Honolulu, Hawaii ...are you really a U.S. Citizen?

    "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."

    December 23, 2007 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  20. Vancouver, BC

    What a ridiculous bunch of nonsense this whole debate is! You are not born a religion. The man has said who he is, has practiced his religion for over twenty years and is responding to his faith because it is constantly an issue brought up by hateful people.

    As to his middle name...what candidate besides Clinton uses their middle name? Can you, without looking them up, give the middle names of the other candidiates.

    If American voters are going to decide on such silly reasons for voting when you and the world are facing such horrendous problems is pathetic.

    The rest of the candidates have more surmontable obstacles than this honest, biracial candidate.

    In my humble opinion your country and the world would benefit from Obama as president and I wish him and his supporters well.

    December 23, 2007 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  21. Robert,nyc,ny

    Politics is after all, as someone said, the 'residue of business', in practical terms. The brilliant design of the propaganda system in the west, that of 2-party politics, red vs. blue, 'liberal'. vs. 'conservative', and other simplistic fictions, is that when the populace gets sick of the one group's abuses, then the 'pressure relief valve', the 'election' is there to allow folks to choose the other bunch. Since the paymasters are pretty much the same group of elites, and their business interest, for both Dems and Repugs, it is pure delusion to think that change is going to come from either party.

    If Obama can cool all this and offer alittle change, why not give him a chance?

    December 23, 2007 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  22. David, Oak Park, Illinois

    If Obama is the nominee, here are some of the things the Republicans will do:

    1) They will repeatedly highlight his name, "Barack Hussein Obama," a name that reminds people of Osama and Saddam Hussein.

    2) They will run ads saying, "watch this picture wherein all the Presidential nominees are saluting the US Flag, while Obama/Osama stands with utter disregards for the flag."

    I can guarantee that these things will be all over the internet, TV, radio talk shows, and print media. And the democrats will lose like they never have in the past. Let's be smart folks!

    Richardson or Hillary 08

    December 23, 2007 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  23. Mr. Africa

    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.

    Posted By Hawk,Texas : December 23, 2007 11:43 am

    THIS IS EITHER FALSE, Hawk OR THE BLACK GENTLEMAN YOU SPOKE WITH DOESN'T KNOW WHAT'S GOOD FOR HIMSELF. AN OBAMA PRESIDENT WILL DO WELL FOR AMERICA AND IN ADDITION RAISE BLACK PEOPLE'S IMAGE FROM THE SLUM IT HAS BEEN IN FOR YEARS. BLACK PEOPLE WILL BECOME MORE CONFIDENT IF OBAMA BECOMES PRESIDENT..THE GENTLEMAN YOU SPOKE WIHT IS CONFUSED OR NOT SMART AND SO HE DOES NOT SPEAK FOR ALL BLACKS

    ALSO, SOME BLACKS DONT WANT TO VOTE FOR OBAMA BECAUSE THEY ARE AFRAID OF BEING LABELLED RACIST!

    I am Africa and i urge every American to vote Obama cuz he is going to make a great president for America and also help to raise the image of America's black population that was marginalized and enslaved for years...Use Obama, America, to solve your problems and improve your image...how hard is it to see this?

    December 23, 2007 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  24. David John, Cedar Rapids, Iowa

    Mark makes an excellent point. Why did Obama join the church only when he decided to get involved in politics? Can we trust him?

    December 23, 2007 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  25. Habeeb

    How could he ever be a muslim? While he was using early part of his life doing drugs.
    His father was a Muslim, and Hussain Obama is uncomfortable with that. Apparently only thing he won't mind from his father's side is skin color so that he can appeal to African Americans for political gains. All in all, I see a man who's not proud of his roots. This explains exactly why even African-Americans don't embrace him.
    If his father was muslim, then Obama is half-muslim by birth 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.

    December 23, 2007 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
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