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. Brian, Charlotte, NC

    Whether or not he has a background in Islam from his childhood is irrelavent to me. What concerns me is the emphasis his "Christian" church places on Africa and blacks. In Christianity there is no Jew or Gentile, black or white, male or female. The Church should be about the business of saving souls, not defending a group of people on the basis of their skin color.

    December 23, 2007 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  2. patrick,derry,nh

    The argument for not electing sen. Obama as President is so Naive. When was the last time someone said 'I will bring the country together'. It never happened except when we were in so much pain and divided.Nothing else brings this country together. If it's not North Vs. south,,or Red Vs. Blue
    States, or Democrats Vs. Republicans, or Black Vs. White or some combination we are a diverse but divded country.

    Even our Religions are divided on many issues and our families. So it is Naive anybody not to see what Obama has to offer.Obama to say he will unite our country. It's a cuts through republicans & democrats that are good in good political rhetoric that you hear when you don't have anything else in your tool box. Obama is all what America needs right now. we need to help him too, can't do it alone.
    You can't run this country's Foreign and Domestic Policies on a Hope and a Prayer,when everybody is going negative. We do better by uniting our own Mind and Heart because they are divided as well.
    Vote wisely.

    December 23, 2007 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  3. juliet

    Where Did All the Good Journalism Go?

    December 23, 2007 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  4. Colony14 author, Peruibe, Brasil

    I don´t care about Obama´s religion, or lack thereof. I´m more concerned about his (and that of Hillary, et al) leaning toward socialist solutions to problems (both real and imagined).

    Instead of asking about a candidate´s religion, it might be refreshing for a reporter to ask how the candidate specifically interprets each section of the U.S. Constitution. Oh, wait, I´m sorry – that might prove that most of the candidates don´t know anything about the U.S. Constitution!

    December 23, 2007 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  5. BM,NH

    I had enough High blood pressure from Bush administration. Give me Obama for my open goverment accountability this time around!!

    December 23, 2007 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  6. CS, Gerald, MO

    Don't we live in a country founded on freedom of religion? Even if he was Muslim, so be it.

    December 23, 2007 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  7. Baber Mohammed, Sugar Land, Texas

    From what I remember learning in elementary school, the Pilgrims came to America in an effort to escape religious persecution. Today, we are forgetting that noble and lofty ideal of religious tolerance and characterizing an entire civilization as a force to be feared.

    This type of immaturity and close mindedness is absolutely detrimental to the future and prosperity of our country. It is painful to see that people-my fellow countrymen-are raising eyebrows over mere rumors that Barack Obama is a Muslim, and even more painful that Obama is not defending the sleeping giant of an electoral bloc-Muslims. I want a President who is quick to defend all faiths and quick to group people based on actions not on faith, race, or sexuality.

    I feel-being American born Muslim-betrayed by my fellow countrymen, whom I love. I urge everyone who has reservations about Muslims to go meet some. We will welcome you into our homes with open arms and will love to share our lives with you...give us a chance. We are just like you, we are neighbors, moms, dads, students, and concerned citizens.
    We should begin living up to the ideals we cherish so dearly; freedom, tolerance, and respect for one another.

    To judge a person's moral capacity as a human being because they are a Muslim (in Sen. Obama's case he is not even a Muslim) is repulsive.

    From Time Magazine:
    As the Constitutional COnvention of 1787 came to a close, after three and a half months of deliberation, a lady asked Dr. Franklin, "Well, Doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?" "A republic," replied the Doctor, "if you can keep it."
    -anecdote from the records of the Federal Convention of 1787.

    I sure hope that the descendants of the Pilgrims will remember why their ancestors came here, and that will ensure our ability to keep this Republic intact.

    December 23, 2007 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  8. Vicky,newton,iowa

    I Had High Blood Pressure

    Now it’s down to 120/75. Find out how I did it without drugs

    It is by the grace of God I have Obama to know he can fix things in washington.

    December 23, 2007 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  9. Stephen

    colony14. .... Obama was a constitutional law professor, he knows the constitution more then any other candidate.

    On the issue of religion, obama has his fathers name, not his fathers religion. He barely knew his father, how can anyone judge him based on a man he knew through letters.

    Also, he is defending his faith, not putting down Muslims, he knows why people are asking for smear and fear tactics. He is ready to defend his background and ready to be president, this is not an issue.

    December 23, 2007 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  10. bell,portsmouth,nh

    Oh crap Obama has been swiftboated. He can stand this Crap as long as doesn't let it go beyond control. I am voting for barack no matter what George Bush think who need to be the next president of united states!

    December 23, 2007 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  11. Brendan H., San Antonio, TX

    And yet, Lush Rumballs will seize on the "Muslim" angle and the fact that Obama's middle name is Hussein and run with it, just watch!!!

    December 23, 2007 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  12. joan,missouri

    Oh boy the swift-boating of Obama has begun by the GOP goons.suggesting him a closeted Muslim is the best smear they can come up with > pathetic!

    December 23, 2007 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  13. Tim,nyc,ny

    So was Bush. One more reason to oppose Obama.
    Tell me one reason why we shouldn't vote for Obama and more reasons why we voted G.W.Bush who is a radical etheist. Bush should be ashamed to have killed so many innocent lives.
    let's face it America, everybody knows who is Obama at this time and our pretence will always keep this country going down the drains. Wake up America!

    December 23, 2007 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  14. carrol,nebraska

    Each time we think Progressive and stop hate and bigotry, America moves foward and get respected in the whole world.

    Just like we missed to unite with the world and get helped to capture those who mastermined 9/11, the same reason why we are putting someone with so much to offer down and want him go without being noticed. Obama for a long time has been resonating with
    American people since they see him as a 'force for change'.

    December 23, 2007 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  15. Tom,boston,ma

    Ah yes, CNN catering to the ignorant as always. Of course Obama will never get elected because there will be enough ignorant people in this country and enough CNN type outlets to ignore any good policies or qualities this man may have.

    December 23, 2007 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  16. Gibson,Ohio

    I like him and am really not too excited about Obama, but this makes me wonder how long it will be till they start having photoshoped images of him with a bomb belt on with Clinton fans calling in saying we knew it!

    December 23, 2007 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  17. zak,des moines,Iowa

    The blurb on the media says that. The media is only available to couch potatoes. If a wing-nut publication says that Hillary Clinton is questioning Obama, and only CNN News reports it, then it is most probably a subterfuge, kill two birds with one stone: sow dissension among Democrats and swiftboat Obama. I mean, this ploy has Karl Rove write large on it and he is helping Hillary to win this elections. Obama has to come out and tell people who he is otherwise Karl Rove will get the mud to use against him.

    December 23, 2007 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  18. James Chirico

    It doesn't matter what religion a candidate is regardless of Huckabee's schilling with a highly lit bookcase as a show of faith. The moral values we look for are taught in most faiths. When we push for Christianity in foreign lands, we should be careful to never insult Islam. We should show the thousands of similarities between the Bible and Quran to embrace peace and help between the faiths.

    December 23, 2007 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  19. richard,san jose,ca

    Wow, and we’re not even near the Primaries yet!

    The GOP Propaganda machine is in full Smear mode… I don' think they have a chance here. All air is cleared by a brilliant man.

    December 23, 2007 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  20. Rafia66, L.A, Ca

    Obama just lied when he said that he was raised in a Christian household. If any of you Obomb-ites would read your God’s book (do you ever read?), you'd know that he specifically mentioned that his family was not religious.
    The guy starts running for president one year after he is elected to the Senate, has had a long record of ‘avoiding’ yes or no in the Illinois legislature, as well as the Senate…then has the nerve to trash others who have the guts to vote one way or the other.
    Obama is a Democratic/smarter version of George W. Bush – the cocaine nose, no foreign policy experience (beyond age 6-10), cannot to debate – think on his feet… He should be an actor, because he reads great speeches. We cannot afford to have a spineless, wimpy, comfort-food novice in the White House. He will never get there anyway.John Edwards will have him for breakfast.

    December 23, 2007 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  21. Ekomb,charleston,south carolina

    Well At least he’s not a member of Skull and Bones or a Mason.

    Check it out folks – find one president other than Kennedy who wasn’t a member to one of the other. You’re gonna fill your shorts when you google it.

    Clinton Too!

    God Help Us All.

    December 23, 2007 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  22. ryan,chicago,ill

    That’s pretty low, but pretty much CNN news with Clintons Misreportation of Obama childhood schooling,
    So…how much do you remember from school when you were 6? I can’t even remember my teachers name, face, hell…even the elementary school I went to at that time.

    December 23, 2007 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  23. Harry,des moines,iowa

    This is great. First of all, nobody is concerned about Obama's background. Secondly, if you don't know the guy upto this point then you don't live anywhere in or near America at this time. Who cares about his upbringing that has no harm no foul. But what this really shows is that THEY FEAR HIM and rightfully so, he can beat Clintons.

    December 23, 2007 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  24. ken, Caldwell

    Who Cares! Our current dictator is a friggin "born again" His policies were carried out because "God told him" Anyone with half of a brain can look through history and site mass scale tragedy after tragedy whenever religion is injected into affairs of state. I probably won't support Obama, but I surely don't care what religion his father believes in, nor him for that matter. How about a Pres. that takes a pragmatic approach, and starts leading with NO regard to religion. Look at what 8 years of religious republican screwballs have done to us! This country needs some serious education... To all of you rural American, christian fundamentalists.....Wake Up or Shut Up! You have stained christianity, and because the vast majority of you are so uneducated, we have been dealt the worst hand in American History. You don't even realize that you all have been screwed the worst! But "Gays can't Marry!" I'm so sick of this religious stuff.

    December 23, 2007 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  25. Susie, Newark, Ohio


    It's good to see the man I support, along with thousands upon thousands of other people, hit the top of your Ticker.

    I'm a Reagan Republican. For years now I've held my nose and voted every election for the lesser of the evils.

    In 2008 I will finally breathe freely when I vote because I can vote for Ron Paul, a man of principle, who loves the U.S. Constitution, freedom, peace, prosperity, getting this country out of debt before we collapse in on ourselves; he loves the idea of the U.S.A. not building nations but being friends with them and trading with them, while not getting entangled in other countries government and military. Those are the things I love too – that's why I'm voting for him.

    Congressman Paul speaks a totally different language from the status quo Republicans and Democrats candidates. He stands out above all of them because his message is from the heart – not his head.

    When people hear or read his message – they too become Ron Paulaholics. It's a great addiction!

    Thanks again for running a good story on him!

    December 23, 2007 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
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