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EDITORIAL: The first presumed Muslim president

Americans think Obama is Islamic for a reason

Hard on the heels of the Ground Zero Mosque controversy, significant numbers of Americans think President Obama is a Muslim. The uncomfortable fact for the White House is the more the American people get to know Mr. Obama, the more they think he is a follower of Islam.

Rumors of Mr. Obama's purported Muslim identity spread in January of 2007 and were tied to Hillary Rodham Clinton operatives, who denied responsibility. The Obama camp responded that "Barack Obama is not and has never been a Muslim. Obama never prayed in a mosque. He has never been a Muslim, was not raised a Muslim and is a committed Christian who attends [The Rev. Jeremiah Wright's] United Church of Christ." That seemed definitive.

But in a February 2008 interview with the New York Times, Mr. Obama said the Adhan, the Muslim call to prayer, is "one of the prettiest sounds on Earth at sunset." He then recited it, "with a first-class [Arabic] accent." The opening of the Adhan contains the Shahada, the Muslim profession of faith, proclaiming, "There is no god but God and Muhammad is the prophet of God." Stating this before two Muslims is the traditional requirement for joining the Islamic faith.

Adding fuel to the fire is Mr. Obama's family heritage: born of a Muslim father and raised by a Muslim stepfather. Under Shariah law, having a Muslim father makes one a Muslim, though this custom has no legal standing in the United States.

In a September 2008 interview with ABC's George Stephanopoulos, Mr. Obama said, "John McCain has not discussed my Muslim faith," a comment which Mr. Obama's partisans say was taken out of context. In July 2008, he admitted to People Magazine he and his wife don't give Christmas presents to their children. There is also the president's full name, Barack Hussein Obama, which as the Associated Press gently put it, "sounds Muslim to many." In fact, the name "Barack" derives from the Arabic word for "blessing" and is not necessarily Islamic, but when paired with "Hussein," which refers to Muhammad's grandson, acts as an adjective.

Suspicions were raised by Obama presidential policies, such as taking a harder line on Israel, ordering that radical Islamic terrorists be referred to only as "violent extremists" and engaging in an unprecedented and obsequious outreach to Muslim countries. Mr. Obama's bowing to King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, in April 2009, didn't help matters much.

These and other reasons are why perceptions that Mr. Obama is Muslim keep growing. An April 2008 USA Today poll showed 10 percent thought he was Muslim and 53 percent Christian. The latest Pew poll, however, shows the number believing him to be a follower of Islam has swelled to 18 percent, while the number believing him to be Christian declined to 34 percent. A new poll by Time magazine has 24 percent thinking Mr. Obama worships Allah.

None of this confirms the president is a Muslim, but it keeps speculation running wild.

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