January 23rd, 2008
10:15 AM ET
14 years ago

Obama battles Muslim rumor head-on

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i.l.cnn.net/cnn/2008/images/01/22/art.obamaemail.ap.jpg caption=" Obama is stepping up his efforts to beat back a false e-mail rumor."]WASHINGTON (CNN) - Democrat Barack Obama stepped up his efforts Tuesday to battle back against e-mails that falsely label him a Muslim, telling an interviewer the ongoing rumors were part of a "systematic political strategy."

"I think it's very important for people not to buy into the kinds of dirty tricks that we've become so accustomed to in our politics, and people need to understand I'm not and never have been of the Muslim faith," he told CBN's David Brody.

Related video: Obama confronts Muslim rumors

In e-mail messages that have been circulating as long as Obama has been a presidential candidate, the Illinois senator is said be a Muslim who refuses to recite the pledge of allegiance, and one who "joined the United Church of Christ in an attempt to downplay his Muslim background." In fact, Obama has never been a Muslim.

"I think that those who are of the Muslim faith are deserving of respect and dignity, but to try and feed into this fear-mongering and try to question my faith commitments and my belief in Jesus Christ, I think is offensive," Obama also said. "And I want to make sure that people are absolutely clear about what's going on with this, and if they get another one of these e-mails that they're deleting it and letting their friends know that it's nonsense."

Obama did not hypothesize who was behind the e-mails, but noted, "somehow they appear magically wherever the next primary or caucus is."

His comments are the latest in a heightened effort to beat back the Internet rumors ahead of South Carolina's Democratic primary Saturday.

In recent days, his campaign has launched a TV ad that quotes his now-famous 2004 speech in which he said, "We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes.” And in a new mailer to South Carolina Democrats – the latest in a months-long series of religious-themed messages in the state - Obama is called a "Committed Christian," who "felt a beckoning of the spirit and accepted Jesus Christ into his life." The mailer pictures the senator standing behind a pulpit, with an organ and a cross in the background.

soundoff (427 Responses)
  1. Hari

    I would like to point out that Hillary Clinton's spokesperson "Mo" Elleithee's real name is Mohammad. I suppose the Clinton machine's Muslim spokesperson had no problem with these rumors against Obama once everyone just knew him as "Mo."

    January 23, 2008 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  2. J.Crobuzon

    What I hear is anyone who says "I am not a Muslim" is not a Muslim. Denying Allah is a crime in Muslim societies, and you cannot rejoin Islam after insulting Allah. There are no 'stealth Muslims' who deny their religion to get better airplane seats or run for senator; what a crazy idea?

    Look, you could pretend to be a Muslim, or a Buddhist, or an Elvis-worshipper from California in order to escape a bad situation, and you would be forgiven by Jesus according to the New Testament. Forgiveness is the heart of Christianity (I still say most Americans would rather argue with al-Qaeda than fight them, even now). Muslims don't get a do-over.

    January 23, 2008 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  3. PatriotforObama

    Of the three Democratic candidates, Barack Obama has more experience in elected public office. Obama 11 years, Clinton 7 years, Edwards, 6 years. He believes in Jesus Christ and has been a member of the Trinity Lutheran Church for over 20 years and attends there with his wife, Michelle and two children.

    January 23, 2008 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  4. JYazza

    Any American who speakes before they ask themselves these questions about someone else' religion should be silent.

    1. Are we not a country who values freedon of religion?
    2. If we search for another religion are we condemned for it?

    January 23, 2008 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  5. Tiffany

    I am reading this ridiculous blog in UTTER DISBELIEF! The republicans are laughing because you are all buying into the garbage. For those of you with two brain cells to formulate an indpendant thought. Go home, close the door, turn off the t.v. and shut down your computers and think about what this world will be like if we (democrats) can't get along and another R takes the white house!

    Vote your conscience and stop listening to the garbage the media is spewing. Come on PEOPLE! You cannot give it to them again.

    January 23, 2008 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  6. CB

    To Sarah in new York.
    No one is implying in Obama's campaign that Muslims are to fear.
    This is what the Clinton campaign is doing to divide our nation. Her campaign is trying unsuccessfully to provoke fears of Muslims just to win the presidency. Obama is about unity – the point is not that he is or is not of a particular faith-( he happens to be Christian) but that this is a divisive political scheme to appeal to the worst in us. Most nations and people groups I know carry some form of prejudice- it is by rationality and choice we recognize this and defeat it within ourselves. Obama appeals to our best.

    He lived in a Muslim nation and so has a broader picture on the world than most candidates.

    we need to choose- more of the Bush politics of fear and divisions driving our decision for president or unity.

    January 23, 2008 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  7. gloriab

    Becky, you said who cares what religion Obama is?
    Are you American? Are you patriot? Do you have children? Did you lose a family member in 9/11? Do you have a family soldier in Iraq or other country where the soldier putting their lives in dangerous every moment? Are you worry for the security of American people ? give me break!! Religion matter.

    * about Blitzer. Please don't touch him, he is an excellent reporter,. I watch his program" The situation Room" he is doing his best to give us the information that we need. About Hillary, well in part. you are right. But what Reporters and Blitzer can do about it?. The owners of CNN are doing it. They want Obama for Presidential candidate for the Democrats Party . Republican trying to help Obama with the primaries in each state to vote for him and because he will be more easy to destroy and crash him as a bug. Hillary know what they will do with her, and she is ready to fight with the Republican. I am supporting the CNN Reporters because they are doing an excellent job. WOLF YOU ARE ROCK!!!

    January 23, 2008 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  8. Elaine in Kentucky

    Some of you may not care if he was a muslim, but I do. It doesn't matter what you call me. I believe in the Holy Bible not the Koran. I am glad I live in America where I can vote my choice not Cnn, or Fox's. And speaking of lies : You should not accuse the Clinton's or anyone else of starting things when you don't know what you are talking about.

    January 23, 2008 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  9. Sher Khan

    Regarding the comment by Crobuzon about Christanity and forgiveness I know a lot of devout Christians who believe that I, as a Muslim, am destined to go to hell unless I accept Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. Lets focus on the topic at hand and not spread religious propaganda here. To me, as a Muslim living in America, its scary that having a Muslim middle name is such a huge issue for a presidential candidate.

    January 23, 2008 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  10. Sali in California

    I am saddened at the suggestion that being a Muslim should automatically disqualify you from becoming the President or a political leader in the United States. Our constitution grants all of us in this country unalienable rights, equality, and the pursuit of happiness. How can we as a society turn our backs on these truths? And what kind of example are we setting for our children?

    If 10 years from now, if we are attacked by a group of extremist Buddhists or Jews or Hindus, then, are we slowly going to eliminate another group of people out of our political system because of the affiliation with a religion? It is not the Muslim faith that drove those terrorists to attack us. It was political ideology masked by faith.

    I am disappointed in Mr. Obama for failing to recognize that his speaking out against the suggestion that he is Muslim and dispelling the rumors is offensive to all the Muslims who try to live their lives peacefully. I don't blame him, given all the propaganda we've been fed since 9/11 about Muslims in general, but he basically validated that in our current environment, we are not equal.

    By the way, I don't believe the Clintons bear responsibility for these rumors. This is standard operating procedure for Republicans. Remember the rumors the Bush campaign spread about McCain (that he had fathered a child with a black prostitute) courtesy of Karl Rove? Wake up America, the Republicans are scared that Obama will win, given a chance, against any current Republican in the race. They want to run against Hillary! God help our country.

    January 23, 2008 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  11. Mary Jerome Gillette

    Why didn't you print it – it's already written. Shame on YOU..

    January 23, 2008 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  12. Jen

    Since when does Religion matter in the USA? Its obvious that he is not muslim, but his experience overseas might benefit us in relations with the islam world where all the other presidents seem blind in doing so. As for the Flag and patrioism that nancy mentioned above.. do you not read anyones explaination for anything? It was not the pledge, they were listening to someone sing the star spangled banner and not everyone crosses their heart for the song. There is nothing wrong with that and doesnt make him less patriotic. OH I bent over and picked my kid up during the pledge and didnt have my hand on my heart. Does that make me non patriotic? To Sher Khan.. you go! Nothing wrong with being Muslim! Wish Americans would get over that.

    January 23, 2008 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  13. Adam, Dallas TX

    I don't believe that America has time to waste with a President like Obama. America is really in trouble, we voted for Bush because we wanted change and now look at America! We need to fix everything before we can change anything! He should wait another 8 years.

    Dems will loose to the Republican party if Obama wins the Democratic Election.

    Hillary has practical agendas for all issues, she answers each and every question raised! We need a president that KNOWS not ADVISED!

    January 23, 2008 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  14. Barb Lucas

    Wow! After reading all the various e-mails, pro and con as to the candidates, the thing that stood out more than anything to me is the grammar, punctuation, spelling, the mis-use of words ( i.e., "ladder" when clearly it should be "latter"), etc. , etc.

    I support the candidate who will make it mandatory for any student preparing to "enter this jungle" after graduation from high school to go back to the 7th grade and take a refresher course in the use of the King's English.

    January 23, 2008 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  15. Bob

    THIS JUST IN! Obama is a Christian! He holds the following OUTRAGEOUS beliefs:

    – Donkeys talk
    – A fish can eat a guy and then puke him up a few days later, relatively unharmed
    – There's a magical man who lives in the sky and loves everybody
    – It is not correct to treat people like crap, even if they treat you like crap... for example, by coming into your country illegally, killing people, doing things you consider immoral, etc.

    January 23, 2008 06:01 pm at 6:01 pm |
  16. cozumelkid

    A picture of Obama, at a pulpit, with a cross in the background. And!

    January 23, 2008 06:58 pm at 6:58 pm |
  17. charlotte

    He's to good a imitating MLK to be Muslim. Makes me want to say, Amen, Praise the Lord, Yes we can!!!

    January 23, 2008 07:04 pm at 7:04 pm |
  18. Gay from Mississippi

    People always write down things that aren't true and that are based on PURE SPECULATION and whoever wrote that for Neil Simon is just as ignorant as anyone who would repeat it. HOWEVER, the good thing about ignorance is that it can be cured with KNOWLEDGE.

    If you accept the word of GOD as true and read one of the books that Paul wrote and PAUL HIMSELF comes to you and says "this is what I meant when I said this in the book of Philippians," would you dispute him? Of course not. The man has SAID that he has NEVER been a Muslim. I think HE AUGHT TO KNOW what his religious faith is.

    Educate yourself with knowledge from reputable sources and no one is more qualified to speak about Mr. Obama's religion than Mr. Obama HIMSELF...AND HE HAS SPOKEN!!

    January 23, 2008 07:08 pm at 7:08 pm |
  19. Jean

    The poster(s) on this board who claims they "heard" Obama does not place his hand on the Bible, that he doesn't place his hands on his heart, etc. should know better than to "repeat" lies. I was always taught not to repeat rumors and personally find it disgusting.

    Thankfully the Constitution did NOT mandate that one had to be of a certain religious persuasion to hold political office. What's wrong with this country anyway? Actually, nothing's wrong with the country it's just the people in it. Religion or the lack thereof should be a PERSONAL matter between an individual and his/her God. Nobody should have to justify their faith. It's so ironic that people came to this country seeking religious Freedom and we've turned into a nation of intolerant witch hunters. We're back tracking into the 14th century. There's nothing progressive in that. How did we become so dumbed down that we are engaging in electronic witch hunting and burning? This scares me.

    I care about Education, Health Care, adequate housing, social security. I care about us being bogged down in Iraq and other countries. I care about the state of the economy. I don't give a hoot about another person't religious choices.

    January 23, 2008 07:08 pm at 7:08 pm |
  20. Tom in MA

    I've gotten emails that said the Clintons were mafia, crooks, murders... you name it. I don't think the Obama campaign put them out there, nor do I think the Clinton campaign put the Muslim and pledge emails. There are plenty of wingnuts out there that can send this trash around to stir up trouble. If you get one of these emails, just delete and ignore it.

    January 23, 2008 07:26 pm at 7:26 pm |
  21. Sharon

    Everyone worries about how to cast their vote. No problem make everyone mandated to vote when filing their income tax. Those who don't make enought to file would be required to file the portion that requires them to vote. Why should we be required to pay taxes but not to vote?

    January 23, 2008 07:47 pm at 7:47 pm |
  22. Lance in Monrovia

    I don't believe Obama's saying that it's a bad thing to be a muslim. He's accepting and respectful of every faith. What he's saying is that he's being misrepesented in a tone of fear and hate, completely uncalled for whether someone is calling jew, muslim, catholic, mormon or whatever. He is fighting against fear, not faith, he's fighting for hope, not hoplessness.

    He is the most transparent, just leader this country has seen in two generations. He will bring pride to the office.

    January 23, 2008 08:12 pm at 8:12 pm |
  23. Flavio

    Obama says one thing and does the other (or doesn't do any at all). How can he explain 100 votes "Present"? You go to 100 Senate sessions and you don't vote yes neither no. To me that says a lot about a candidate. Enough to tell me that I will not vote for him. And to say Ronald Reagan was the best president ever?! Is he the DEMOCRAT candidate or the REPUBLICAN? I don't buy this guy at all.

    January 23, 2008 08:16 pm at 8:16 pm |
  24. Ellen

    It's incredible how gullible Americans can be in believing emails or Internet postings without checking out the facts. And by the way, there are plenty of public photos of Obama being sworn int to the Senate using his family's Bible. Enough with the smear campaigns already. This accusations that Obama's was raised a Muslim have been researched to death and disproven. As have the claims that McCain fathered an illegitimate child. Oh yeah, and did you hear that Mitt Romney is actually a Martian and Mormons are really aliens intent on taking over the universe? Grow up.

    January 23, 2008 08:25 pm at 8:25 pm |
  25. Ellen

    It's incredible how gullible Americans can be in believing emails or Internet postings without checking out the facts. And by the way, there are plenty of public photos of Obama being sworn int to the Senate using his family's Bible. Enough with the smear campaigns already. This accusations that Obama was raised a Muslim have been researched to death and disproven. As have the claims that McCain fathered an illegitimate child. Oh yeah, and did you hear that Mitt Romney is actually a Martian and Mormons are really aliens intent on taking over the universe? Grow up.

    January 23, 2008 08:26 pm at 8:26 pm |
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