Essay Five of Zero-sum Historiography: The Palestinian Assault upon History.
Barack Hussein Obama’s relation to Islam
This is (at least for the time being) the last of a series of essays on the topic of Muhammad’s teaching about History. This essay is intended to take us to where the rubber hits the road – that is, to where we can surely see the effect in current world politics of this uniquely mischievous and devious historiography.
I begin with a word of caution to anyone intending to research and/or hoping to publish anything about Barack Hussein Obama’s relationship to Islam. The presumption in leading opinion circles is that merely raising such a question – Is Barack Hussein Obama really a Muslim? Is he truly a Christian? — exposes a spirit of bigotry. It pegs you at once as a right-wing fundamentalist. The only scholar of first-rate reputation whom I have found walking up to, instead of walking away from, this live-wire theme is Daniel Pipes, an intellectually brilliant, roundly-certified academic scholar of Middle East History (with special reference to Islam), President of the Middle East Forum, Editor of the Middle East Quarterly Journal, and the leading light behind the website http://www.danielpipes.org/. Pipes has offered a number of brief essays on this theme, beginning in 2007, but his findings are updated and effectively summarized in a three –part essay published in the Washington Times in September, 2012. [Daniel Pipes, “Obama’s Muslim Childhood”http://www.danielpipes.org/11952/obama-muslim-childhood.]
Obama’s recollection of his experience with Islam and with Christian faith
O that mine adversary had written a book! – Job 31:35
According to Daniel Pipes,
Obama’s discussion of his faith.. [includes] perhaps the most singular and outrageous of his lies….Asked about the religion of his childhood and youth, Obama offers contradictory answers. He finessed a Mar. 2004 question, “Have you always been a Christian?” by replying: “I was raised more by my mother and my mother was Christian.” But in Dec. 2007 he belatedly decided to give a straight answer: “My mother was a Christian from Kansas. … I was raised by my mother. So, I’ve always been a Christian.”
We ask: this is a straight answer? Does God have grandchildren?
By Feb. 2009, however, Obama had re-worded this less-than-convincing confessio fidei:
I was not raised in a particularly religious household. I had a father who was born a Muslim but became an atheist, grandparents who were non-practicing Methodists and Baptists, and a mother who was skeptical of organized religion. I didn’t become a Christian until … I moved to the South Side of Chicago after college.
Then again, in September 2012, he put it this way: “I came to my Christian faith later in life.”
Pipes notes that in Obama’s book, Audacity of Hope (1995), which is part-memoir part policy-platform, Obama states: “I’ve never practiced Islam.…For a while, I lived in Indonesia because my mother was teaching there. And that’s a Muslim country. And I went to school. But I didn’t practice.”
Under the headline, “Barack Obama Is Not and Has Never Been a Muslim,” Obama’s first presidential campaign website carried an even more emphatic statement in Nov. 2007, stating that “Obama never prayed in a mosque. He has never been a Muslim, was not raised a Muslim, and is a committed Christian.”
But Obama’s handlers and eventually Obama himself were required to adjust virtually everything that appears in that statement. I can only refer the reader to Pipes’ own essays for the fascinating detail. Here, we have to settle for this summary of his conclusions:
All the evidence available to us makes clear that Obama … as a boy regularly prayed in the Mosques … [and that in saying] that he “once was a Muslim” … [he is saying that he] is now what Islamic law calls amurtadd (apostate), an ex-Muslim converted to another religion who must be executed….Obama learned how to pray the salat in religion class ….Praying the salat in of itself made Obama a Muslim …. The full adhan in its Sunni iteration (skipping the repetitions) goes as follows:
God is the greatest.
I testify that there is no deity but God.
I testify that Muhammad is the Messenger of God.
Come to prayer.
Come to success.
God is the greatest.
There is no deity except God.
While many sub-themes suggest themselves at once, I believe this is enough for us to proceed.
The New Beginning Speech, Cairo, June 4, 2009
In June of the first year of his Presidency, Barack Obama delivered an address entitled, “A New Beginning” at Al-Azhar University in Cairo, an institution described in reference sources as the chief centre of Arabic literature and Islamic learning in the world and the oldest degree-granting institution in Egypt. The two-fold purpose of his address was (i) to assess the damage that, he said, had been done to the world by the refusal of previous American administrations to consider the noble side Islam, and (ii), to assure the Muslim world that his election by the American people assured a new beginning. The key to this new beginnings was that, unlike all previous American Presidents, Barack Hussein Obama had personally experienced life in the world of Islam, and that his philosophy has been forever affectedfor good by that experience.
This is one of those rare Presidential Addresses that on the day of its delivery commanded nearly-universal attention and then gained in significance as time has passed. Much that has happened in the realm of public policy, both domestic and foreign, will be clarified for historians by reference to this document. But to make the one crucial point for which I have written this essay, I will commend the text to my reader [http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/NewBeginning/transcripts] while focusing on the brief passages that provide testimony to the theology that guides Barack Obama.
Early in the speech, Obama re-assures the people who elected him that “I’m a Christian;” but with the next breath and every breath that follows his preoccupation is with Islam. “I’m a Christian but my father came from a Kenyan family that includes generations of Muslims.” He is a Christian, that is, but a very special kind of Christian – one whose appreciation of Islam is equal to that of any Muslim.
As a boy, I spent several years in Indonesia and heard the call of the azaan at the break of dawn and at the fall of dusk…. So I have known Islam on three continents before coming to the region where it was first revealed.
He then offers an entirely positively vision of the historical record and present effect of Islamic teaching throughout the world. Here, as in the passages of his memoirs and in campaign speeches where he addresses the theme of Islam, he claims expert knowledge of Islam, but it is evidently knowledge built upon personal, sentimental association, with only oblique reference to ideas. His testimony to Islam is never qualified by testimony to his faith as a Christian.
Such talk raises in the minds of most of us who were raised in a world where Islam was simply not present in daily life the question how one manages to remain so unaffected intellectually by what he claims was so prominent in his life. It appears, in short, like playing both sides of the street. He is a Christian, but his appreciation of Islam, he seems to say, is equal to that of any Muslim. Like an Eighteenth century Enlightenment thinker (Voltaire or Benjamin Franklin) or like a Twentieth Century Professor of Comparative Religion, he is fascinated by possibilities of standing above all the details of religious difference, finding their common denominator in their humanitarian claims.
Midway through his Cairo text, Obama declares his passion for peace in the Middle East and offers what he imagines is the best theological grounds for this passion: he looks forward to the day when “Jerusalem is a secure and lasting home for Jews and Christians and Muslims, and a place for all of the children of Abraham to mingle peacefully together as in the story of Isra — (applause) — as in the story of Isra, when Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed, peace be upon them, joined in prayer.” Either this remark exposes the hit-and-run mentality about matters of religious creed that sits well with our popular culture and is convenient for politicians, or it is a deliberate signal to his repudiation of the Trinity.
“Those Who Say ‘Three.’”
None of us has the right to question Obama’s right to call himself a Christian. But those of us who stood up in church last Sunday and recited the Creed must surely see the incompatibility between the teaching of the Creed and the pre- emptive Islamic vision embodied in the Qur’an’s story of Muhammad’s Night Journey, the Isra¸ “when Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed, peace be upon them, joined in prayer.”
Tourists who visit the Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount inJerusalem will follow their guide down the steps to the spot where Muhammad’s night journey occurred. Here in cave below Rock itself, the guide will tell him, Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad, Peace be upon Them, exchanged their thoughts. The tourist should then follow the guide back up the stairs into the area beneath the Dome of the Rock, where, if he still has his wits about him, he should ask the guide for the translation of the Arabic passage that is written inside the Dome. It should be as follows:
O People of the Book [that is, Christians]! Do not exaggerate in your religion or utter aught concerning God save the truth. The Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, was only a Messenger of God, and His word, which he conveyed unto Mary, and a spirit from Him. So believe in God and his messengers, and say not ‘Three” – Cease! It is better for you!
This note of menace against those who “say Three” (that is, Father, Son and Holy Spirit) is what should impress Christians –about the story of the Isra and about the words under the Dome. It is about Islam’s absolute confidence in its unqualified right to demand that People of the Book Cease! and submit to Islam. This is what Muslims take from the story.
Is Barack Obama not aware of this note, or is he just looking away from it for the sake of making a genial point about the different religious faiths all getting along because, at heart, they believe the same things?
I have found no journalist or published commentator who has noticed anything problematic about Obama’s words. Come to think of it: How many of Obama’s millions of Christian listeners throughout the world that day have adequate appreciation of the elements of their own faith that they would recognize so blatant a surrender of the central element of our faith. I would risk asserting (subject to discovery to the contrary by some researcher more avid than I) that there will not be found anywhere in the entire record of Public Papers and Addresses of the Presidents from George Washington to Barack Obama another statement by any President that explicitly rejects the doctrine of the Trinity – as Obama does here.
At the same time, I think it is safe to assume that most Muslims are baffled by Obama’s notion that he could have been so steeped in Islam and imagine that he is not a Muslim. While to us, Obama’s words convey an impression, generally admired since at least the century of the Enlightenment, of a man who has experienced a variety of religious expression and decided for him self in favor of an alternative to Islam, to Muslims he has described his betrayal of the faith of Islam.
Not incidentally, reciting this same story about the Isra is a brazen endorsement, by the President of the United States, of Islam’s pre-emptive claim to the Jerusalem.
A “Middle East” policy that is faithful to Muhammad’s vision cannot also be faithful to history. People who indulge this sort of blithe, hit-and-run attitude towards theology cannot be trusted. People who profess their belonging to Christ while proclaiming and embracing before the whole world (literally, the whole world in the case of the Cairo speech) their allegiance to the Isra – the anti-Christian, anti-Judaic, anti-historical dogma that Islam uses to assert its pre-emptive right to all religious sites — cannot be counted on the be faithful to Israel.