President Barack Obama making his speech in Egypt that
led some to feel that he was a Muslim
RNC Committeewoman Kim Lehman Claims Obama Told Muslims That He Was A Muslim
The Republican ranks have cautiously avoided weighing in on recent poll numbers showing that a healthy portion of the American public believes that President Barack Obama is a Muslim.
Wary of the cultural sensitivities such discussions entail, the de facto response seems to be the one offered by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Sunday: "The president says he's a Christian," McConnell said on NBC's "Meet the Press." "I take him at his word. I don't think that's in dispute."
There have been a few notable exceptions. Congressional candidate Tom Ganley said last week that he did not have "a position on whether he's a Muslim" only to walk back his remarks amidst the uproar. No one in the official GOP tent, however, has fully embraced the rumor. Until now.
Last Friday, a Republican National Committee woman Kim Lehman, responding to an article about the polls in Politico, accused the publication of trying "to protect Obama" by denying his true religious heritage.
"BTW he personally told the muslims that he IS a muslim," wrote the Iowa RNC member. "Read his lips."
Lehman stood by her initial tweet, arguing that it was during his speech that Obama let the real truth slip.
"I was watching television when he was over there talking to the Muslim world and he made it, in my opinion, clear he was partially Muslim," Lehman told the Huffington Post. "The way he was approaching that speech was, 'Hey I'm one of you. I'm with you.' He didn't have to say that... but he did."
Obama's speech in Cairo did include discussion about his father's Muslim faith. But the president also made it abundantly clear, both then and many times since, that he was a practicing Christian. Asked why she didn't believe the empirical and overwhelming evidence, Lehman replied:
"Again, going back to his speech... he would have said I'm a Christian and I'm from the Christian religion and we can work together. It didn't appear to me he said Christianity was part of his religion."
For the record, here is the relevant portion of Obama's speech:
“Now part of this conviction is rooted in my own experience. I'm a Christian, but my father came from a Kenyan family that includes generations of Muslims.
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. As a young man, I worked in Chicago communities where many found dignity and peace in their Muslim faith”.
Did President Obama really tell Muslims
that he was a Muslim?
President Barack Obama meets Egyptian
President Hosni Mubarak in Egypt
A Muslim viewpoint of President Obama's Egyptian speech
from a Muslim news source
Before a crowd of robed Muslim clerics, dissidents who have served time in jail, students from across the region and besuited government officials from authoritarian regimes, President Obama made an historic speech yesterday to try to mend America’s battered ties with the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims.
From such a diverse audience he received as many cheers for espousing women’s rights as he did for quoting the Koran or championing the principle of a free Palestinian state.
Mr. Obama made obvious attempts to win Muslim hearts and minds — reminding them that Thomas Jefferson taught himself Arabic, and praising the Islamic world as a beacon of learning during Europe’s Dark Ages — but refused to shy away from the difficult issues of religious extremism, human rights abuses and nuclear proliferation that plague the region.
President Barack Obama in Egypt
Obama Muslim Myth on the Rise
The Pew Research Center released a new poll this morning updating its measure of public belief in the perception that President Obama is a Muslim - belief that Obama is a Muslim increased from 11% in March 2009 to 18% now, while belief that Obama is a Christian declined from 48% to 34% and the group who said they didn't know increased from 34% to 43%.
As Pew notes, "The view that Obama is a Muslim is highest among his political opponents (31% of Republicans and 30% of those who disapprove of his job performance express this view)." If we compare these results with those from March 2009, it's clear that Republican beliefs about Obama's religion have dramatically shifted:
The most important issue, though, is why the misperception has increased over time. The Washington Post story does a good job of breaking down different possible explanations:
White House officials expressed dismay over the poll results. Faith adviser Joshua DuBois blamed "misinformation campaigns" by the president's opponents...
Among those who say Obama is a Muslim, 60 percent say they learned about his religion from the media, suggesting that their opinions are fueled by misinformation.
But the shifting attitudes about the president's religious beliefs could also be the result of a public growing less enamored of him and increasingly attracted to labels they perceive as negative.
In the Pew poll, 41 percent disapprove of Obama's job performance, compared with 26 percent disapproval in its March 2009 poll.
More than a third of conservative Republicans now say Obama is a Muslim, nearly double the percentage saying so early last year. Independents, too, are now more apt to see the president as a Muslim: Among independents, 18 percent say he is a Muslim, up eight percentage points.
It's extremely difficult to distinguish between these explanations in poll data; both are likely to play a role. In particular, as Republicans and independents view Obama more unfavorably, they're likely to be more receptive to negative information about him, including false claims about his religion.
Plus it's possible that the perception increased due to Obama's recent comments about the proposed Muslim community center near Ground Zero.
This page was last updated: November 22, 2012
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