Barack Obama religion conspiracy theories

Barack Obama religion conspiracy theories
Barack and Michelle Obama, their children, and Chief Justice John Roberts.
Barack Obama swearing the oath of office of the President of the United States using the Bible of Abraham Lincoln.

Barack Obama religion conspiracy theories—allegations that he secretly follows a non-Christian religion, or that he is the antichrist—have been suggested ever since Barack Obama began his campaign to become President of the United States in 2007. As with the Barack Obama citizenship conspiracy theories, these false claims are promoted by various fringe theorists and political opponents.[1][2]


Claims that Obama secretly practices Islam

Though Obama is a practicing Christian,[3] and he was chiefly raised by his mother and her parents who were Christians, both his father Barack Obama, Sr. with whom he lived only as a baby, and his stepfather Lolo Soetoro with whom he lived during his early childhood were nominally Muslims. This familial connection to Islam, among other things, is the basis of a common claim lodged by conspiracy theorists that Obama secretly practices Islam.

According to the Los Angeles Times false rumors saying that Obama was secretly a Muslim started during his campaign for the United States Senate in 2004 and had expanded through viral e-mails by 2006. The Times compared these rumors to earlier false rumors about 2000 presidential candidate John McCain fathering a dark-skinned child out of wedlock.[4] The rumors were subsequently promoted by conservative talk show hosts, including Michael Savage and Rush Limbaugh.[5] In December 2007 the Hillary Clinton campaign asked a volunteer county coordinator to step down after she forwarded an e-mail message which repeated the false rumor that Obama was Muslim.[6] In June 2008, New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, himself Jewish, spoke out to Jewish voters in Florida against false e-mail rumors which said that Obama was secretly a Muslim and did not support Israel. Bloomberg said: "I hope all of you will join me throughout this campaign in strongly speaking out against this fear mongering, no matter who you'll be voting for."[7]

Qur'an claim

A chain e-mail circulating during the presidential campaign claimed that Obama took his oath of office as a U.S. Senator in 2005 while placing his hand on a Qur'an rather than a Bible. This claim is false; Obama was sworn into office using a Bible, which he owned. The claim may have been inspired by a photo-op re-enactment of the 2007 swearing-in of U.S. Representative Keith Ellison of Minnesota, who used a Qur'an that had belonged to Thomas Jefferson.[8]

Madrasah claim

An early version of a rumor that Obama had "spent at least four years in a so-called madrasah, or Muslim seminary, in Indonesia"[5] was found in an article published by Insight on the News, a magazine that was published by News World Communications, an international media conglomerate then owned by the Unification Church. Insight on the News ceased publication soon after the incident. Its editor, Jeff Kuhner, claimed that a person working for the Clinton campaign had told him that the campaign was "preparing an accusation that her rival Senator Barack Obama had covered up a brief period he had spent in an Islamic religious school in Indonesia when he was 6". Senator Clinton denied the allegation. When interviewed by the New York Times, Kuhner did not name the person said to be his reporter's source.[9]

In fact, Obama attended two schools during the four years he lived in Indonesia as a child (1967–1971). From the first grade until some time in the third grade he attended the Roman Catholic St. Francis Assisi School, where classes began and ended each day with Christian prayers. He was registered there as Muslim because of his stepfather's nominal religion. At some point during the third grade he transferred to State Elementary School Menteng 01, also known as Besuki School, for less than a year. Besuki is a secular public school. Students there wear Western clothing, and the Chicago Tribune described the school as "so progressive that teachers wore miniskirts and all students were encouraged to celebrate Christmas".[10][11][12]

Soon after Insight's story, CNN reporter John Vause visited State Elementary School Menteng 01 and found that each student received two hours of religious instruction per week in his or her own faith. Vause was told by Hardi Priyono, deputy headmaster of the school, "This is a public school. We don't focus on religion. In our daily lives, we try to respect religion, but we don't give preferential treatment."[13] Interviews by Nedra Pickler of the Associated Press found that students of all faiths have been welcome there since before Obama's attendance. Akmad Solichin, the vice principal of the school, told Pickler: "The allegations are completely baseless. Yes, most of our students are Muslim, but there are Christians as well. Everyone's welcome here ... it's a public school."[14]

Middle name "Mohammed" claim

One chain e-mail claimed incorrectly that President Obama's middle name is Mohammed or Muhammed.[15][16]

"First Jewish president" claim

In response to the Obama administration's backing of the 2011 military intervention in Libya, controversial Muslim minister Louis Farrakhan labeled Obama the "first Jewish president" and claimed that "the people that selected him were rich, powerful members of the Jewish community."[17]

Claims that Obama is the Antichrist

During the presidential campaign, one chain e-mail accused Barack Obama of secretly being the biblical Antichrist:

"According to The Book of Revelations the anti-christ is: The anti-christ will be a man, in his 40s, of MUSLIM descent, who will deceive the nations with persuasive language, and have a MASSIVE Christ-like appeal... the prophecy says that people will flock to him and he will promise false hope and world peace, and when he is in power, will destroy everything is it OBAMA??"[18]

In fact, the word Antichrist does not appear in the Book of Revelation (though it does appear in 1 John and 2 John); the Book of Revelation instead refers to The Beast. The Book of Revelation never mentions the Beast's age, nor does it include any references to "Muslim descent", as Islam did not exist at the time it was written.[18]

During the 2008 presidential campaign, former comedian and political commentator Victoria Jackson has made claims that "Obama bears traits that resemble the anti-Christ." [19]

Political polls

Public opinion surveys carried out beginning in 2008 have shown that a number of Americans (predominately Republicans), believe that Obama is either a Muslim, is the Antichrist or both. In March 2008, a survey conducted by Pew Research Center found that 10% of respondents believed that he is a Muslim. Those who were more likely to believe he is a Muslim included political conservatives (both Republicans and Democrats), people who had not attended college, people who lived in the Midwest or the South, and people in rural areas.[20]

A University of Georgia study found that the percentage of Americans who believed that Obama is a Muslim remained constant at approximately 20% in September, October, and November 2008, despite frequent attempts by the media to correct this misperception. However, the study also showed that some people who had initially believed Obama to be a Christian, later believed the rumor that he is a Muslim. The survey found that respondents who had shifted to the misperception were generally younger, less politically involved, less educated, more conservative, and more likely to believe in Biblical literalism. According to Professor Barry Hollander, "These are groups of people who are generally distrustful of the mainstream media...So therefore journalists telling them that this is not true could actually have the opposite effect and make them more likely to believe the rumor."[21]

In August 2010, a Pew Research poll showed that 18% of Americans believed that Obama is a Muslim, and 31% of Republicans did so.[22]

Barack Obama's response

I'm a Christian by choice. My family didn't – frankly, they weren't folks who went to church every week. And my mother was one of the most spiritual people I knew, but she didn't raise me in the church. So I came to my Christian faith later in life, and it was because the precepts of Jesus Christ spoke to me in terms of the kind of life that I would want to lead – being my brothers' and sisters' keeper, treating others as they would treat me. I think also understanding that Jesus Christ dying for my sins spoke to the humility we all have to have as human beings, that we're sinful and we're flawed and we make mistakes, and that we achieve salvation through the grace of God. But what we can do, as flawed as we are, is still see God in other people and do our best to help them find their own grace. That's what I strive to do. That's what I pray to do every day. I think my public service is part of that effort to express my Christian faith.

President Barack Obama, September 27, 2010 [23][24]

In person

Barack Obama has publicly responded to questions regarding his religion on more than one occasion. During a debate of Democratic presidential candidates on January 15, 2008 in Las Vegas, Nevada, moderator Brian Williams asked Obama about the rumor that he's "trying to hide the fact that [he is] a Muslim". Obama responded that "the facts are: I am a Christian. I have been sworn in [to the US Senate] with a Bible." He then said "in the Internet age, there are going to be lies that are spread all over the place. I have been victimized by these lies."[25][26]

In an interview with Brian Williams on August 29, 2010, Williams asked Obama about a poll that said that 20% of the American public do not believe that he is a Christian or American born. Obama gave a similar answer to the one he gave in the January 2008 debate.[27]


In addition to Obama's personal responses, the 2008 Obama presidential campaign responded to the false claims made against him by people opposed to his candidacy by launching a website called "".[28] Some of the false claims counted by the website included claims that he is a Muslim and not a Christian.[29][30]

In October 2010 the White House announced that it was cancelling a stop at the Golden Temple during Obama's trip to India. The decision to cancel was received with disappointment by the Sikh community, and it was speculated that the decision was in response to a photo that was circulated during the in 2008 campaign of Obama wearing traditional wardrobe during a 2006 trip to Kenya.[31][32] The 2006 photo was used to raise doubts about Obama's religion.[33]

See also


  1. ^ Graham, David A. (February 12, 2010). "Know Your Conspiracies NEWSWEEK's guide to today's trendiest, hippest, and least likely fringe beliefs.". Newsweek. Retrieved April 21, 2010. 
  2. ^ Henig, Jess; Emi Kolawole (January 10, 2008). "Sliming Obama – Dueling chain e-mails claim he's a radical Muslim or a 'racist' Christian. Both can't be right. We find both are false.". Retrieved April 21, 2010. 
  3. ^ Miller, Lisa; Wolffe, Richard (July 12, 2008). "Finding His Faith: So much has been made about Barack Obama's religion. But what does he believe, and how did he arrive at those beliefs?". Newsweek. Retrieved March 25, 2010. 
  4. ^ Smears 2.0, Los Angeles Times, December 3, 2007
  5. ^ a b Bacon Jr, Perry (November 29m 2007). "Foes Use Obama's Muslim Ties to Fuel Rumors About Him". The Washington Post. 
  6. ^ Clinton Campaign Volunteer Out Over False Obama Rumors, Washington Post, December 5, 2007
  7. ^ N.Y. Mayor urges Jewish voters to denounce Obama Muslim rumors, Associated Press, June 2, 2008
  8. ^ "Obama sworn in on his Bible". December 20, 2007. Retrieved March 8, 2010. 
  9. ^ "Anatomy of an anonymous political smear". International Herald Tribune. 2007-01-29. Retrieved 2008-02-18. 
  10. ^ Higgins, Andrew (August 19, 2010). "Indonesia Catholic School Promotes Ties to Obama". CBS News. Retrieved 2010-08-19. 
  11. ^ "Obama attended an Indonesian public school". December 20, 2007. Retrieved March 8, 2010. 
  12. ^ Barker, Kim (25 March 2007). "Obama madrassa myth debunked". Chicago Tribune.,0,3358809.story. Retrieved 4 September 2010. 
  13. ^ "CNN debunks false report about Obama". CNN. January 22, 2007. Retrieved 2007-01-26. 
  14. ^ Pickler, Nedra (2007-01-24). "Obama challenges allegation about Islamic school". San Diego Union-Tribune. Retrieved 2008-02-10. 
  15. ^ "Not a Muslim; not Mohammed". January 11, 2008. Retrieved March 8, 2010. 
  16. ^ "No Muhammed or Mohammed in Obama's name". May 2, 2008. Retrieved March 8, 2010. 
  17. ^ "'We're succeeding in Libya... and we're not going to kill Gaddafi,' says Barack Obama as jubilant rebels re-take key city of Ajdabiyah". Daily Mail (London). March 26, 2011. 
  18. ^ a b "Complete distortion of the Bible". April 2, 2008. Retrieved March 8, 2010. 
  19. ^ Smith, Ben (October 28, 2008). "NRSC celeb thinks Obama may be anti-Christ, 'sooooo evil'". Retrieved September 3, 2010. 
  20. ^ "Obama Weathers the Wright Storm, Clinton Faces Credibility Problem.". Pew Research Center. 2008-03-27. 
  21. ^ Fahm, Sam (March 10, 2010). "Study explores belief in rumor that Obama is Muslim" (Press release). University of Georgia. Retrieved March 10, 2010. 
  22. ^ August 2010 Pew Research poll
  23. ^ Obama 'Christian By Choice': President Responds To Questioner by Charles Babington and Darlene Superville, AP, September 28, 2010
  24. ^ Video – President Obama: "I am a Christian By Choice" by ABC News, September 29, 2010
  25. ^ "The Democratic Debate in Las Vegas". New York Times. January 15, 2008. 
  26. ^ Jaffe, Ina (January 16, 2008). "Democrats Cordially Spar at Las Vegas Debate". National Public Radio. Retrieved September 4, 2010. 
  27. ^ Graham, David (August 30, 2009). "In NBC Interview, Obama Again Dismisses Belief That He's a Muslim With Joke". Retrieved September 4, 2010. 
  28. ^ "Obama hits back at Internet slanders". Agence France-Press. June 12, 2008. 
  29. ^ "The Truth About Barack's Faith", Obama for America. Retrieved 3-9-2009.
  30. ^ Tumulty, Karen (June 12, 2008). "Will Obama's Anti-Rumor Plan Work?". Time.,8599,1813663,00.html. Retrieved November 7, 2008. 
  31. ^ Polgreen, Lydia (October 19, 2010). "A Question of Appearances: Obama Will Bypass Sikh Temple on Visit to India". New York Times. 
  32. ^ Dykes, Brett Michael (October 20, 2010). "White House cancels Obama trip to Sikh temple over Muslim rumor concerns". Yahoo!. 
  33. ^ Gardner, David (February 26, 2008). "Obama in a turban: Barack accuses Hillary of smear campaign after circulating photos of him dressed as 'a Muslim'". Daily Mail (London). 

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