Not since the election of John F. Kennedy in 1960 has the religious faith of a U.S. presidential candidate generated so much distortion as the false claims generated by extremist critics that Senator Barack Obama, the candidate of the Democratic Party, is a stealth Muslim. This is part of an Islamophobic hate campaign that fuels prejudice against Americans who practice their Islamic faith and Muslims worldwide. As scholars of Islam and Muslim societies and concerned citizens for a fair and honest electoral process, we wish to set the record straight.
1. Senator Obama has spoken eloquently and widely of his Christian faith and shared his personal beliefs in public forums during the campaign on religious values in American life, including a Compassion Forum on April 13 and a Saddleback Forum on August 16.
2. Senator Obama carries the same exact name as his father, Barack Hussein Obama, who was considered to be an agnostic and not a practicing Muslim by the time he met Senator Obama’s mother. Senator Obama’s mother did not convert to Islam, nor was he raised as a practicing Muslim while growing up in Indonesia and Hawaii.
3. The claim that Obama would be considered an “apostate” by Muslims is false. The vast majority of Muslims accept the Qur’anic message there there is no compulsion in Islam (Qur’an, 2:256). Senator Obama was not raised as a Muslim, and he cannot be held accountable for the religious status of his father.
4. The politically motivated attack on Senator Obama as a radical Muslim is part of an Islamophobic prejudice in this campaign against American Muslims as anti-American and unfit to hold public office. During the primary season several candidates fueled resentment of all Muslims in politicizing the terrorist attack of 9/11. Recently the anti-Muslim propaganda film Obsession has been sent as an unsolicited DVD to voters in several states. It does not matter if a political candidate is Muslim or Jewish or Catholic or Mormon or Baptist. The President of the United States serves all its citizens, regardless of their religious beliefs. As a state senator and United States senator, as well as in his two books, Senator Obama expresses his belief in the separation of church and state, while accepting the need for greater dialogue between members of all faiths.
5. Regardless of your final choice for the voting booth on November 4, the decision should be based on the crucial issues facing the nation and the individual character of each candidate rather than spurious hate speech that demonizes the faith of as many as eight million citizens of the United States and more than a billion adherents worldwide.
Scholars supporting this statement:
Margaret Abraham, Professor of Sociology, Hofstra University
Aly R. Abuzaakouk, President, Libya Forum for Human and Political Development, Managing Editor, Democracy Watch
Laurel Ackerson, Undergraduate Middle East and Asian Languages and Cultures, and Sociology, Columbia University,
Najwa Adra, Independent Consultant, New York
Melanie Adrian, Social Anthropology and the Study of Religion, Lecturer in Social Studies, Harvard University
Ahmed Afzaal, Assistantant Professor, Comparative Religion, Concordia College
Abdullah al-Ahsan, Professor, Department of History and Civilization, International Islamic University Malaysia
Peter S. Allen, Professor, Department of Anthropology, Rhode Island College
Donna Alvah, Associate Professor & Margaret Vilas Chair of U.S. History, Department of History, St. Lawrence University
Barbara C. Aswad, Professor Emeritus of Anthropology, Wayne State University
Uzi Baram, Associate Professor of Anthropology, New College of Florida
Rafik Beekun, Professor of Management and Strategy, Co-Director, Center for Corporate Governance and Ethics, University of Nevada
Magnus T. Bernhardsson, Associate Professor of Middle Eastern History, Department of History, Williams College
Peter Biella, Director, Program in Visual Anthropology, San Francisco State University
Jess Bier, Ph.D. Student, Graduate Center, City University of New York
Whitney S. Bodman, Associate Professor of Comparative Religion, Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary
Marilyn Booth, Director, Center for South Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, and Associate Professor, Comparative and World Literature, University of Illinois
Daniel Bradburd, Chair, Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, Clarkson University
Jonathan E. Brockopp, Department of History and Religious Studies, Pennsylvania State University
Ann Burlein, Chair and Professor of Religion, Hofstra University
Steven C. Caton, Professor of Anthropology, Harvard University
Catalina Chesley, Anthropology Student, University of Michigan
Juan R. I. Cole, Professor of History, University of Michigan
Kristy S. Coleman, Lecturer, Comparative Religious Studies, San Jose State University
Don Conway-Long, Associate Professor and Chair, Behavioral & Social Sciences Deptartment, Webster University
Jenna Coplin, Visiting Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology, Hofstra University
Kenneth M. Cuno, Department of History, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Edward E. Curtis IV, Associate Professor, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis
Melissa D’Agostino, Ph.D. Student, Anthropology, The New School for Social Research
Huma Dar, Postdoctoral Teaching Fellow, Department of Theatre and Film Studies, University of British Columbia
Rochelle Davis, Assistant Professor, School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University
Judith DeGroat, Associate Professor of History, Department of History, St. Lawrence University
el-Sayed el-Aswad, Professor, Dept. of Sociology, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, United Arab Emirates University
Jamal J. Elias, Professor of Religious Studies, University of Pennsylvania
D. R. Elder, The Ohio State University-ATI, Wooster OH
Heather Empey, PhD Candidate, McGill University
Carl Ernst, Kenan Distinguished Professor, UNC Chapel Hill
Tolga Esmer, Ph.D. Candidate, University of Chicago
Brian Estes, Public Policy Associate, American Anthropological Association
Jacqueline Flenner, concerned citizen, Family Systems Therapist (Ret.), Asheville, NC
Carolyn Fluehr-Lobban, Professor of Anthropology, Rhode Island College
David M. Freidenreich, Department of Religious Studies, Colby College
Nancy Gallagher, Chair, Middle East Studies Program, Professor of History, University of California, Santa Barbara
Frank Gaughan, Assistant Professor of Writing Studies and Composition, Hofstra University
Norman Girardot, University Distinguished Professor, Religion Studies Department, Lehigh University
Patricia Golay, Visiting Faculty, Division of Undergraduate Studies, Florida State University
Arthur Goldschmidt, Professor Emeritus of Middle East History, Penn State University
Hani Guend, Professeur chercheur, Institut national de la recherche scientifique, Centre Urbanisation Culture Société, Quebec
Sondra Hale, Professor, Anthropology and Women’s Studies, University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)
Juliane Hammer, Assistant Professor of Islamic Studies, Deptartment of Religious Studies, University of North Carolina at Charlotte
Jonathan H. Harwell, Collection Development & Assessment Librarian, Zach S. Henderson Library, Georgia Southern University
Motier Haskins, Professor, School of Social Work, University of Iowa
Gretchen Harwood, Deering, New Hampshire
Mary Elaine Hegland, Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology, Santa Clara University
Richard E. Hennessey, Director, Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies Program, Merrimack College
Kathleen M. Herndon, English Department , Weber State University
Annie C Higgins, Assistant Professor, Arabic Language and Literature, Wayne State University, Secretary/Treasurer, Syrian Studies Association
David M. Hindman, United Methodist campus minister, The Wesley Foundation at The College of William and Mary
Engseng Ho, Professor, Department of Anthropology, Duke University
Valerie Hoffman, Associate Professor, Department of Religion, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Amir Hussain, Associate Professor of Theological Studies, Loyola Marymount University
Brannon Ingram, Ph.D. candidate, Islamic studies, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill
Sherman A. Jackson, Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of Arabic and Islamic Studies, Visiting Professor of Law, Professor of Afro-American Studies, The University of Michigan
Stephanie Anne Johnson, Professor and Co-Chair and Service Learning Coordinator, Visual and Public Art Department, California State University, Monterey Bay
Rhoda Kanaaneh, visiting scholar, New York University Department of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies
Ahmet T. Karamustafa, Professor of History and Religious Studies, Washington University in St. Louis
Zayn Kassam, Associate Professor of Religious Studies, Pomona College
Sharryn Kasmir, Department of Anthropology, Hofstra University
Brian P. Kelahan, History Teacher, Hyde Leadership School, New Haven, CT
Tugrul Keskin, PhD Student, Sociology, Virginia Tech. University
Mansa Bilal Mark King, Asst. Professor,Sociology Dept., Morehouse College
Rev. Jeffrey A. Kisner, Professor of Biblical and Ministry Studies, Chair, Human Studies Department, Waynesburg University
Fatemeh Keshavarz, Professor and Chair, Dept. of Asian and Near Eastern Languages and Literatures, Washington University in St. Louis, Honorary Co-Chair, Iranians For Peace
Jeffrey Kitson, Instructor of Music, Central Community College (Columbus, NE)
John Kreniske, Associate Professor of Anthropology, Hofstra University
Kathryn Kueny, Associate Professor of Theology, Fordham University
Petra Kuppinger, Associate Professor of Anthropology, Monmouth College
Robert A. Leonard, Professor of Linguistics and Director of the Forensic Linguistics Project, Chair, Department of Comparative Literature and Languages, Hofstra University
Keith A. Leitich, Independent Scholar, Seattle, WA
Stephen Long, Assistant Professor of Political Science, Kansas State University
Lois Lorentzen, Chair, Department of Theology and Religious Studies, University of San Francisco
Ronald Lukens-Bull, Associate Professor of Anthropology, University of North Florida, Fulbright Senior Scholar/Guest Lecturer, Istitut Agama Islam - Sumatera Utara
Pamela A. Maack, Anthropology, Distinguished Faculty, San Jacinto College
Donna K. Maeda, Professor and Chair, Department of Critical Theory & Social Justice, Occidental College
Ali Akbar Mahdi, Professor, Department of Sociology & Anthropology, Ohio Wesleyan University
Douja M. Mamelouk, PhD candidate, Georgetown University
Gregory M. Maney, Associate Professor of Sociology, Hofstra University
Richard C Martin, Professor of Islamic Studies and History of Religions, Emory University
Radwan A. Masmoudi, President, Center for the Study of Islam & Democracy (CSID), Washington, DC
Joy McCorriston, Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology, The Ohio State University
Michael McKale, Professor of Philosophical & Religious Studies, Director, Institute for Ethics, Saint Francis University
Matthew Melvin-Koushki, PhD Student, Islamic Studies, Yale University
Khaleel Mohammed, Associate Professor, Department of Religious Studies, San Diego State University
Jawid MojaddediJawid Mojaddedi, Associate Professor of Religion, Director, Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Rutgers University
David W. Montgomery, Postdoctoral Fellow, Religion, Conflict and Peacebuilding Initiative, Emory University
Jonathan Mok, Postgraduate Student of the Chinese University of Hong Kong
Mirsad Mujovic, President & CEO, The Independent Institute for Social Studies
Corinna Mullin, Adjunct Instructor, Politics of the Middle East, Richmond American International University in London
Athar Murtuza , School of Business , Seton Hall University
Aisha Y. Musa, Assistant Professor of Islamic Studies, Department of Religious Studies, Florida International University
Sheila Musaji, Editor, The American Muslim
Cheryl Mwaria, Professor, Department of Anthropology, Hofstra University
Stefanie Nanes, Assistant Professor of Political Science, Hofstra University
On-cho Ng, Professor of History, Religious Studies, and Asian Studies, Pennsylvania State University
Margo Okazawa-Rey, Professor Emerita San Francisco State University
Ali O. Ozturk, Teaching Assistant Professor, North Carolina State University
Jerry Pankhurst, Professor of Sociology and Russian and Central Eurasian Studies, Wittenberg University
Lori Peek, Assistant Professor of Sociology, Colorado State University
Mark Allen Peterson, Anthropology Department & International Studies Program, Miami University of Ohio
Rev. Vincent Pizzuto, Department of Theology and Religious Studies, University of San Francisco
2130 Fulton Street
Kathryn Poethig, Associate Professor of Global Studies, California State University Monterey Bay
Lyn Reese, Director, Women in World History Curriculum, Berkeley, CA
John Renard, Professor of Islam and Theological Studies, Saint Louis University
Shira Robinson, Assistant Professor of History and International Affairs, Department of History, The George Washington University
Robert Rozehnal, Assistant Professor, Department of Religion Studies, Lehigh University
Victoria Rue, Lecturer, Comparative Religious Studies, San Jose State University
Mario Ruiz, Department of History, Hofstra University
Jennifer Rycenga, Professor, Comparative Religious Studies, San José State University
Magda M.Saied, Manager, Ana El-Masry Association For Development & Human Rights,
Halide Salam, Professor of Art, Radford University
Christa Salamandra, Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology, Lehman College, CUNY
Reginald Shareef, Professor, Political Science/Public Administration, Radford University
S. Abdallah Schleifer, Distinguished Professor, The American University of Cairo
Vernon James Schubel, NEH Distinguished Professor of Religious Studies, Kenyon College
Richard J. SchuhmannRichard J. Schuhmann, Ph.D.
Director, Engineering Leadership Development Program, Penn State University, Director, Engineering Leadership Development Program, Penn State University
May Seikaly, Classical and Modern Languages, Literatures, and Cultures, Wayne State University
Irene Siegel, Assistant Professor of Arabic Language & Literature, Comparative Literature Dept, Hofstra University
Laury Silvers, Visiting Assistant Professor, University of Toronto
Mounzer A. Sleiman, National Security Affairs Analyst, National Press Building, Washington DC
Emilio Spadola, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, Colgate University
Harvey Stark, PhD Student, Religion Department, Princeton University
Gregory Starrett, Associate Professor of Anthropology, UNC Charlotte
Justin Stearns, Assistant Professor, Department of Religion, Middlebury College
Ted Swedenburg, Professor of Anthropology, University of Arkansas
Sahar Taman, Religion and Society Dialogue Projects Director, National Peace Foundation
Joanne Taylor, Adjunct Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology, Hofstra University
Alfons H. Teipen, Associate Professor, Furman University
John P. Turner, Asst. Professor of History, Colby College
Samir and Pat McDonnell Twair, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, Los Angeles
Sufia Uddin, Religious Studies, Connecticut College
Roberto Gutiérrez Varea, Associate Professor of Theater, Chair, Performing Arts and Social Justice Program, University of San Francisco
Daniel Martin Varisco, Chair and Professor of Anthropology, Hofstra University
Carl Watson, Curriculum Specialist, NYC Leadership Academy
Matthew C. Watson, Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Anthropology, University of Florida
Sabra J. Webber, Associate Professor, Departments of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures (Acting Chair), The Ohio State University
D.B. Wessels Boer-Stallman, concerned citizen
Jessica Winegar, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, Temple University
Rachel Woodlock, PhD Candidate, Centre for Islam and the Modern World, School of Political and Social Inquiry, Monash University
Edip Yuksel, Philosophy Professor, Humanities Department, Pima College, Arizona.
If you would like to add your name in support of this statement either as a scholar of Islam and religion or simply as a concerned citizen, please email Daniel Varisco.
The truth about Barack Obama’s faith
Barack Obama is a Muslim.
Senator Obama has never been a Muslim, was not raised as a Muslim, and is a committed Christian. Further, this myth perpetuates unfortunate falsehoods about the Muslim-American community that are offensive to people of all faiths.
Barack Obama attended a “radical madrassa.”
Barack Obama never attended a “radical madrassa.”
Senator Obama was sworn into the U.S. Senate using the Koran.
Barack Obama was sworn in using his family Bible.
Photo from Time magazine
Dueling chain e-mails claim he’s a radical Muslim or a ‘racist’ Christian. Both can’t be right. We find both are false.
If these two nasty e-mail messages are any indication, the 2008 presidential campaign is becoming a very dirty one.
One claims that Obama is “certainly a racist” by virtue of belonging to Chicago’s Trinity United Church of Christ, which it says “will accept only black parishoners” and espouses a commitment to Africa. Actually, a white theology professor says he’s been “welcomed enthusiastically” at the church, as have other non-blacks.
Another e-mail claims that Obama “is a Muslim,” attended a “Wahabi” school in Indonesia, took his Senate oath on the Koran, refuses to recite the Pledge of Allegiance and is part of an Islamic plot to take over the U.S. Each of these statements is false.
These false appeals to bigotry and fear remind us of the infamous whispering campaign of eight years ago, when anonymous messages just before the South Carolina primary falsely accused Republican candidate John McCain of fathering an illegitimate child by a black woman.
Washington Post Editorial: Sticks, Stones and Mr. Obama
Jim Rutenberg,The Man Behind the Whispers About Obama, The New York Times
Nicholas D. Kristof: The Push to ‘Otherize’ Obama
Ali Eteraz: Obama Islam Smear Changes Stripes
Haaretz Editorial: Obama and the Jewish question
Resources on the Islamophobic Film Obsession
Obsession with Hate
Resources for Responding to Obsession DVD Mass Distribution (Sheila Musaji)
Omid Safi, “Who Put Hate in My Sunday Paper?”
Obsession Isn’t a Perfume (Adam Shatz)
Feisal Abdul Rauf, What’s Right with Islam: A New Vision for Muslims and the West. New York: Harper Collins, 2004.
Carl Ernst, Following Muhammad: Rethinking Islam in the Contemporary World. Durham: University of North Carolina Press, 2003.
John L. Esposito and Dalia Mogahed, Who Speaks For Islam?: What a Billion Muslims Really Think. Gallup Press, 2008.
Amir Hussein, Oil and Water: Two Faiths, One God. Canada: Wood Lake Publishing, 2007.
Bruce Lawrence, The Qu’ran: A Biography. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 2007.
Gabriele Marranci, Jihad beyond Islam. New York: Berg, 2006.