Barack Obama is not a Muslim. Can we all please just accept that fact? Perpetuating lies about anyone, especially a national figure, simply creates hysteria and does no one a good service, especially America.
Telling the truth and disagreeing vigorously about policies seem like simple enough strategies, don't they? Yet nearly one-third of Americans persist in believing this untruth about Obama's faith.
For the past few years, Pew surveys have shown that 12% of Americans believed Obama was a Muslim. For some reason, according to a recent Harris poll, that number has now skyrocketed to about 33% of Americans. What is driving this obsession with misidentifying our president's faith life?
Perhaps the persistence of the rumor, and its recent expansion in numbers of adherents, has something to do with the divisive first year of Obama's administration. Many Americans simply do not like President Obama at all. The reasons are many. His obsession with health care while neglecting economic leadership. A distaste for American business leadership and financial markets. An unwillingness to call terrorism what it is. Hand-wringing in the face of Afghanistan decisions. Perhaps there are just a lot of Americans who do not like President Obama, and this faith falsehood allows them to vent that dislike. Labeling Obama a Muslim feels viscerally good to many a voter. After all, many in the Muslim world would seek to destroy America.
However, disliking President Obama, or disagreeing with his philosophies or leadership, does not make lie-fabrication acceptable. Calling him ineffective or misguided is one thing; misrepresenting the facts is another thing altogether.
Perhaps the rumor finds life in the sporadic, shallow faith life that President Obama seems to exhibit. His church attendance equates to that of an A&P Catholic, “ashes and palms,” with his family actually attending worship at a church only about once each quarter in this past year. His prayer life, as he has remarked, consists largely of a daily devotional he receives on his Blackberry from Josh DuBois, who leads the newly-reorganized and directionless Faith-Based Initiatives Office. And the president's giving record is less than stellar, as evidenced by his average annual giving of less than 1% of his income to charitable causes in the five years leading up to his run for the nation's highest office. Once he was in the national spotlight, he stepped up his giving to a higher level, but still one well below that of previous presidents. Given that President Obama does not exhibit the regular habits of Christian believers, many seem to leap illogically to the conclusion that he therefore must be Muslim.
For some, President Obama's faith obviously is a question mark. In the void of good information, the Muslim rumor slips in to fill the absence of sound data. Again, questioning or scrutinizing the depth of his Christian faith is one thing, but being a mediocre Christian is not the same thing as being a Muslim.
Perhaps the growth in number of those who would label Obama a Muslim originates simply from the sound of his name. The man's name sounds Muslim; therefore, he must be one. For those who like to embrace this falsehood, a simple review of the five pillars of the Muslim faith will quickly reveal that the same anemic traits that Obama exhibits in his Christian faith practice would also call into question his place in Islam as well.
Five pillars undergird the Islamic faith. First, a believer will make the basic faith profession, “There is no God but Allah, and Mohammed is his messenger.” We have no way of knowing whether Obama has ever made that profession. Second, a Muslim believer is expected to give alms to help those in need, with a normal goal of giving away at least 2.5% of one's income. Obama has consistently failed to meet that test until recently. Third, a devout Muslim is expected to stop and pray toward Mecca five times a day at regularly scheduled intervals. Unless that prayer can somehow be done on a Blackberry, President Obama fails to evidence that basic faith tenet. Fourth, a Muslim should make fasting a regular part of his life, particularly during the month of Ramadan. Evidence shows that Obama did not participate in that ritual practice in any recent year. Finally, a Muslim is expected to make at least one hajj, or pilgrimage to Mecca, in his lifetime. Like the first pillar, we have no evidence that President Obama has ever fulfilled such a goal.
In other words, the evidence for Barack Obama's alleged Muslim faith comes up lacking. To call him a Muslim may not be so much an insult to him as it is to practicing Muslims. Although there is immense distaste for his policies and world-view, the man is not a Muslim. And mindless name-calling does not advance any argument.
It is far better to recognize what President Obama is rather than spew forth falsehoods to impugn his character. President Obama is Ted Kennedy without the alcohol and the womanizing. A classic American liberal. A politician with great confidence in the ability of government to solve problems. An American who believes business cannot be trusted but government can be. And an American whose Christian faith is inchoate, if not malformed.
Telling the truth about President Obama matters because truth-telling reveals character. Failing to tell the truth, or to perpetuate rumors, says more about those who oppose him than it does about Mr. Obama himself. Fabrications and innuendo serve no one well. Especially free discourse in America.