Thursday, August 26, 2010

Is President Obama a Muslim - and Does It Matter?

Last week the Pew Research Group reported that nearly 20% of Americans believe President Obama is a Muslim. This news, combined with the president’s remarks regarding the proposed Muslim center near Ground Zero, sparked widespread discussion of the president’s religious beliefs. Is President Obama a Muslim?

This question is not merely a matter of whether President Obama’s father was a Muslim. Many people choose a different religious path from their parents, as did the president’s father, who rejected Islam for atheism. President Obama has been very clear about his convictions. "I believe Jesus died for my sins and I'm redeemed through him – that is a source of strength and sustenance on a daily basis.”

Does that sound like a Muslim to you? The Qur’an specifically denies the notion that Jesus died for our sins. "That they said, 'We killed the Christ Jesus son of Mary, the Messenger of Allah';- but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but so it was made to appear to them [or it appeared so unto them], and those who differ therein are full of doubts, with no (certain) knowledge, but only conjecture to follow, for of a surety they killed him not: Nay, Allah raised him up unto Himself; and Allah is Exalted in Power, Wise" (Surah 4:157). Islam teaches that Jesus was a great prophet, but it categorically denies that He died on the cross to atone for the sins of humanity.

To be a Muslim one must confess: “La ilaha il Allah, Muhammad-ur-Rasool-Allah” – “There is only one God and Muhammad is his prophet.” Whether President Obama was raised by a Muslim or not, the bottom line is that he has chosen to publicly confess allegiance to Jesus, not to Islam. Is it possible that the president is merely pretending to believe in Jesus? Of course – just as many politicians profess faith as a smokescreen for outrageous behavior. Is it true that many Muslims see the president as “one of us”? As the first president in history to have Muslim blood relatives or to have lived a substantial period of time in an Islamic country, Obama would necessarily have an appeal to Muslims. But the president claims to be a Christian, and his public statements about Jesus are incompatible with Islam. Bearing false witness about the president’s religion does not honor Christ. The bottom line is that for all of us the only thing that determines whether we are truly Christians is how our beliefs and practices measure up to the Bible.

The most disappointing thing about all of the speculation regarding the president’s religion is the assumption that something would be wrong if he was a Muslim. But what if tomorrow the president announced that he has changed his mind, confessed the Shahada, and embraced Islam openly? Would he suddenly become disqualified to be president? Not according to the Constitution, which specifically says in Article 6 that “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.” So why does it even matter of President Obama is a Muslim or not?

It is inescapable that the real issue here is prejudice, a deep distrust of anyone who might remotely be considered a Muslim. Why is it that during the 2008 presidential campaign many pundits loved to point out that Obama’s middle name was Hussein? “Oh, I’m just calling him by his full name,” they would demur. Really? Then why didn’t the same pundits refer to John McCain as John Sydney McCain? The only reason critics brought attention to Obama’s middle name is because it is a popular Muslim name, and in their mind, anything Muslim is suspect.

Are there Muslims who should not be trusted? Of course, just as there are some Methodists that shouldn’t be trusted. Is there a fringe of Islam that murders innocent women and children to advance its agenda? Tragically that is the case – and most often around the world the victims are Muslims. But none of this represents the vast majority of Muslims who live in America. There were many Muslims murdered by the terrorists in the attacks on 9/11. There are thousands of Muslims serving in our armed forces. There are hundreds of thousands of Muslims living in our country because they want to enjoy the American dream. Do we need to be vigilant to protect ourselves against radicalized Islam? Of course. But to dismiss anyone who is a Muslim as a threat to America is bigotry.

So what if President Obama was a Muslim? Based on the hysterical speculation I hear from some people, you would think President Obama is on the verge of imposing Sharia law on America! Not only is this absurd since he is not a Muslim, but since we live in a system filled with checks and balances, what do you think would happen to any president who tried to impose a narrow religious order on America? That president would be immediately impeached and removed from office. Duh!!!!!!

There are legitimate reasons to oppose President Obama’s policies. But the measuring stick ought to be the Constitution, not baseless speculation. Since the demographic group most likely to believe the president is a Muslim is my own group (white, Protestant conservatives), I would like to speak directly to “my people.” If we truly believe that Jesus is the only way to God, then we have the duty to share the gospel with Muslims. How can we possibly reach out to people while at the same time we push them away with fear and prejudice?


  1. Very nicely put, Shane! I have felt exactly this way for a while but have been unable to articulate it so well.