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. Ed

    "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.
    Posted By Richard, West Palm Beach, FL : December 23, 2007 3:19 pm "

    True, but not Millions of Americans run for president. Those who do are expected to be Americans with all their heart. There is a reason why those not born in America cannot run for president because it is assumed they are still loyal to other countries. Also, becoming a US citizen one has to abandon his/her previous citizenship to avoid possible conflicts of interest.

    Especially when this country has not the best relations (to put this kindly) with the Muslim world is absolutely insane to consider electing a President who, like it or not, has some connections (and interests) elsewhere.

    December 23, 2007 06:50 pm at 6:50 pm |
  2. Brad, Los Angeles, CA

    Seperation of Church and State. I don't care if Obama was, is or plans to be of the Muslim faith. He has my vote on the issues, and I could care less what religion he is...that is his own personal choice. Those that are trying to make a big deal out of this clearly have some racial/religious issues to deal with. Stop living in fear. So his middle name is Hussein??? Big deal. There's plenty of people living in this country with the last name Hitler, and we aren't freaking out about them, are we? Learn the real facts before making judgement...some bulletin you saw on your myspace page or your favorite gossip blog probably aren't the best places to find information on anyone you do or do not want to run this country.

    December 23, 2007 07:19 pm at 7:19 pm |
  3. Ron Nebraska

    Really, this is the only thing that bothers me about Obamas' chances. The fake Muslim issue is so tailor made for the opponent to use to manipulate the ignorant, and as been proven, the ignorant are everywhere.

    December 23, 2007 07:26 pm at 7:26 pm |
  4. john

    This cynicism has to stop. Hillary is a good person, John is a good person, and Barack is a good person. May the best candidate win. We need to give the people hope- not more cynicism.

    December 23, 2007 07:32 pm at 7:32 pm |
  5. Bimmer, Calgary, Alberta

    Obama's muslim background should be a legitimate issue of discussion and consideration by American voters for two reasons:

    1. A child, according to fundamental Islam, born of a muslim father is always a muslim. Conversion to other faith is condemned by death in Islam. A case in point is the muslim who convetred to christianity in Afghanistan and had been the target of prosecution by the fundamentalists.

    2. Many young moderate muslims in later life become fundamentalists, sometimes condoning the killing of non-muslim innocent people.

    These observations are based on being born and brought up in a muslim country and association with many, many muslims here in north America and listening to their reactions after 9/11.

    Not to say history and pattern will repeat here. But why take a chance?

    December 23, 2007 07:33 pm at 7:33 pm |
  6. Ravi, Portland OR

    The tone of this line of questioning seems to be that beig a Muslim is a bad thing. Being part of a minority religion in this country, that is worrisome indeed, although I will add that I am not a Muslim !!

    Also, being afraid of what the Republicans will do with this during the general election campaign is the worst kind of reason not to vote for Obama. If that happens, then it will be a continuation of the cowardly, calculated politics that seems to be the Democrats' forte these past few electiond. Playing it safe with Hilary (if it can be called that) will get them nowhere.

    December 23, 2007 07:38 pm at 7:38 pm |
  7. Kaseam, Philly PA

    I hate to be racial, but only white people are confused when black people have names that are not Christian-like. I have a Muslim-like name, and I do not practice Islam. I am Christian, and have been all my life. Black people give their children names that are unique and different. Black people do not name their kids Susan, Bob, Jane, or Sam. Sorry non-black people, but you will never understand. Names do not imply religion.

    December 23, 2007 08:20 pm at 8:20 pm |
  8. xtina chicago IL

    I wish people would ask these candidates about their experience, what success they've had and what they're most proud in how they've handled leadership roles, instead of asking them about their religion.

    December 23, 2007 08:26 pm at 8:26 pm |
  9. Jacob, Ft Lauderdale, FL

    I am an independent voter. I am not backing for any candidates at this time. Senetor Obama mentioned, Quote "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."

    Why did his mother get married to another muslim after she divorced Obama's father.

    December 23, 2007 08:44 pm at 8:44 pm |
  10. J. Cuddihy, Hamburg NY

    I smell the Clinton smear machine in all of this. Bill and his wife ....... what's her name ..... have not told the truth about much of anything for at least the past 16 years and probably never. When will the American public finally pick up on these two bums ? I am hoping that she wins so that she will get out of NY State.

    December 23, 2007 08:47 pm at 8:47 pm |
  11. Jim, CA

    75% of all Muslim converts in the USA thankfully apostate (according to research by Muslim Professor Ilyas Ba Yunus).

    Islam is the SLOWEST growing religion in the USA!

    Obama did a good thing!!

    December 23, 2007 09:03 pm at 9:03 pm |
  12. Michael Dunst, TX

    WHY IS OBAMA SUCH AN INSINCERE COWARD ? Obama should learn from Mitt Romney on how to stand proudly for his religion. If Romney can speak proudly about his Mormon heritage, why doesn't Obama have the courage to own up to his Muslim heritage. There is no shame in accepting the truth, it is a question of sincerity and respect for one's father. US needs a president who is sincere, not a coward. Republicans seem to be much more sincere about themselves, and Obama just wants to cut and run. I don't see anything wrong if Obama's father was a Muslim, or if his real name is Barack Hussein Obama. Obama should really learn to stand up like Mitt Romney, and not act like a chicken.

    December 23, 2007 09:09 pm at 9:09 pm |
  13. Aziz Maratov, Brooklyn, New York

    And why is he talking like Islam a decease? Ok you are a Christian, thank you very much. It is okay to be a Muslim too, you know....

    December 23, 2007 09:10 pm at 9:10 pm |
  14. ProudAtheist, New York, NY

    What's the difference?

    The beliefs of the Muslims are just as crazy as the Christians.

    We need fact-based candidates, not faith based ones.

    December 23, 2007 09:15 pm at 9:15 pm |
  15. Sean, Boston, MA

    To me it seems like he is still dancing around something.

    Why does he need to state "but he didn't practice Islam" and "I didn't practice Islam."

    December 23, 2007 09:37 pm at 9:37 pm |
  16. lava, North Pole

    His mother was an atheist. LIAR!

    According to Tim Jones, Tribune national correspondent: ""She touted herself as an atheist, and it was something she'd read about and could argue," said Maxine Box, who was Dunham's best friend in high school."

    God save us if this man somehow gets elected president next November.

    December 23, 2007 09:45 pm at 9:45 pm |
  17. One America

    Can someone tell me why Bill Clinton is soooo anxious to returm=ning to the White House?

    My guess is that he has his eyes on a girl that he wants to do under the table .... again.

    December 23, 2007 09:48 pm at 9:48 pm |
  18. Susan Tanner, Seminole, Fl. 33776

    Read his book then read the man. You will see that Obama is already abandoning his own ideals..taking lobby money, etc. One thing stands out when he expresses himself, talking of other people he says "these" people or "those" people. A person who unites instead of divides does not refer to others as "those" people. You will not hear the female candidate refer to others in this derogatory way. Hillery relizes it takes a village to raise a country and all must work together. I heard the same thing when Opera and Obama were together, they refered to a particular group, cutting out the rest of the world. What does this tell you about the man who would be a president, of the people, by the people, and for the people,..not just for "those" people.

    December 23, 2007 09:58 pm at 9:58 pm |
  19. R, NY, NY

    Who cares about Obama. Ron Paul is going to win!

    December 23, 2007 10:17 pm at 10:17 pm |
  20. Vote-Responsbly08

    Do we really know who Obama is??..What did he think we were not going to find out about his drug use and his muslim back ground. This is honesty? Did we think this was all going to be a secrete? However after saying this..I really don't care about this, what's important is his experience. We can not put our country in the hands of a Jr. Freshman Senator that does not have the qualifications to be the president of The United States. We are in crucial and challenging times. What we need is experience, knowledge of foreign policy. Mr. Obama has been in the senate only about two years and a few months of these two years he has been campaigning . I feel this is very irresponsible of him to run for president without having the qualifications that are needed, specially in the trying times we are in. Mr.Obama needed to wait and at lease gain some experience. We need to really take a look at his accomplishments and resume and compare to the other candidates. And only then we can see that it would be a disaster this time around to elect Mr. Obama. This position is not as the dean of a University...We are talking about the future of our Country.. Lets vote Responsibly! Muslim, Christian does it really matter..not really..Non Experience vs Experience does it matter... Very Much!The future of our country depends on this and we can not afford to vote for someone that does not have experience.

    December 23, 2007 10:34 pm at 10:34 pm |
  21. Ravi , Portland OR

    I know this particular question came from a regular civilian. But guess who planted this kind of BS in peoples minds in the first place. That would be the Clinton campaign .
    (Bob Kerrey's "Oh I didnt mean that" BS...which came after Mark Penn's "Oh I wasn't saying that..." bit about drug use –

    Its about time everyone came to their senses about Mrs Clinton and see her and her campaign for what it is – bereft of ideas, desperate , morally bankrupt and a continuation of the cowardly, calculated politics that the Democrats seem to be preferring the last few elections. For example trying to scare us into thinking that Obama is an easy target for Republicans.. I say BRING IT ON Republicans.. Obama is ready !

    December 23, 2007 10:37 pm at 10:37 pm |
  22. That's Reality

    You don't become a Christian by being raised by a Christian mom. One is not "always a Christian". You BECOME a Christian when you believe Jesus is the Son of God and you are born of the Spirit of God. If you read the Gospels you will find out how one becomes a Christian. It doesn't happen by osmosis.

    December 23, 2007 10:43 pm at 10:43 pm |
  23. connie floyd crockett, texas

    You Obama people are really something, can't you compliment your candidate without tearing down the others. Grow Up, this is PRESIDENTIAL politics!!!!!

    December 23, 2007 10:43 pm at 10:43 pm |
  24. Annie, seattle WA

    Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays everyone! Whatever makes you comfortable, have a very happy season! I know that all of us who have left a comment are feeling frustrated at our contry's situation. But when will we stop blaming everyone else for our problems? No one likes being a mirror being put up in their face. But if we are not going to be honest how can we expect any of the candidates to be?

    December 23, 2007 10:45 pm at 10:45 pm |
  25. Robert, Arlington, VA

    "If his father is muslim, then Obama is half-muslim irrespective of whether he practices Islam or not."

    My jaw dropped. What the heck is this belief that a religious faith is somehow genetic? So if my father is a chemist, my mother an accountant, I'm somehow half a chemist?

    Children usually acquire their religious beliefs from their parents, but its cultural transmission, not blood inheritance. This Obama – Muslim argument is really ridiculous, and statements like that above sound like the octoroon arguments of old. Instead of how many drops of black blood make a person black, we're now arguing how many verses of the Koran one hears from a parent makes them a Muslim. I can only shake my head in dismay.

    December 23, 2007 11:44 pm at 11:44 pm |
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