Commentary Magazine


Posts For: May 3, 2008

Is Obama Hiding A Muslim Past?

Daniel Pipes offers the following provocation in the Jerusalem Post: What if it turns out that Barack Obama was a devout Muslim for several years in his childhood? Obama has repeatedly claimed that he has “always been a Christian” and has “never practiced Islam.” Yet the evidence has started to mount that this may not be entirely true.Apparently when he attended Catholic school growing up in Indonesia, he was registered there as a Muslim. People in Indonesia remember him not merely as a Muslim in name, but a devout, practicing one.

Given the effect of blurred memories and vested interests when describing a Presidential contender, we must be careful in drawing conclusions. Nor would it matter whether he was or was not a Muslim — especially as a child — so long as he didn’t try to cover it up. Pipes has it right when he says:

Obama’s having been born and raised a Muslim and having left the faith to become a Christian make him neither more nor less qualified to become president of the United States. But if he was born and raised a Muslim and is now hiding that fact, this points to a major deceit, a fundamental misrepresentation about himself that has profound implications about his character and his suitability as president.

Put more softly: Assuming the evidence continues to emerge, and Pipes’ surmises about Obama’s past are borne out, the question becomes: What kind of person covers up his past faith when running for office? Answer: The kind who instinctively tells people what they want to hear, even at the expense of the truth. But this may be big trouble as the campaign progresses. When he is asked if he breathed in the air of Islam at any point in his life, what will he say? “I didn’t inhale”?

Daniel Pipes offers the following provocation in the Jerusalem Post: What if it turns out that Barack Obama was a devout Muslim for several years in his childhood? Obama has repeatedly claimed that he has “always been a Christian” and has “never practiced Islam.” Yet the evidence has started to mount that this may not be entirely true.Apparently when he attended Catholic school growing up in Indonesia, he was registered there as a Muslim. People in Indonesia remember him not merely as a Muslim in name, but a devout, practicing one.

Given the effect of blurred memories and vested interests when describing a Presidential contender, we must be careful in drawing conclusions. Nor would it matter whether he was or was not a Muslim — especially as a child — so long as he didn’t try to cover it up. Pipes has it right when he says:

Obama’s having been born and raised a Muslim and having left the faith to become a Christian make him neither more nor less qualified to become president of the United States. But if he was born and raised a Muslim and is now hiding that fact, this points to a major deceit, a fundamental misrepresentation about himself that has profound implications about his character and his suitability as president.

Put more softly: Assuming the evidence continues to emerge, and Pipes’ surmises about Obama’s past are borne out, the question becomes: What kind of person covers up his past faith when running for office? Answer: The kind who instinctively tells people what they want to hear, even at the expense of the truth. But this may be big trouble as the campaign progresses. When he is asked if he breathed in the air of Islam at any point in his life, what will he say? “I didn’t inhale”?

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North Carolina Democratic Faceoff

Both Democratic candidates addressed a large crowd Friday night at North Carolina’s Jefferson-Jackson Dinner. Hillary Clinton’s theme was two-fold: she’s going to tie George Bush around John McCain’s neck and she’s the doer/fighter. Her funniest line: “If you listen closely, you can almost hear in the distance the sound . . . of a moving van pulling away from the White House.”

As for her current race, she offered up extra helpings of praise for John and Elizabeth Edwards, but focused on her core message. “I am no shrinking violet.” She is going to fight, fight, fight (did she mention she’s going to fight?) for the middle class against big business, rich people, gas companies, and . . . well, the list goes on. There’s nothing terribly lofty. She’s selling “real and immediate solutions.” (Conservatives might scoff at the notion that any of her proposals are really “solutions,” but she has lots of them and they are immediate.) She does, however, project optimism about America and a gritty determination that America will solve its problems.

Barack Obama came later in the evening. He entered to raucous cheers but seemed tired, almost subdued. He too gave a nod to the Edwards duo, but in the perfunctory list of thank-yous at the top of his speech. Remarkably, this was largely the same speech we have heard for over and over again: the “fierce urgency of now,” babies born when he began to run who now talk and walk, the pettiness of politics, his cousin Dick Cheney won’t be on the ballot, the end of Scooter Libby justice, change we can believe in, etc. (One wonders if he has anything else in his arsenal of rhetorical weapons.) The only differences are the local touches–now it’s an Indiana group of workers being thrown into unemployment–but his dreary and bleak view of a land bereft of hope and opportunity remains. One note: his position on gas tax must be causing problems, since he defensively added a line about Clinton’s false, McCain-like solution for a gas tax holiday.

He did, at the close of his speech, mention the concerns about him. He argued that his opponents were only successful when they talked about him rather than “the issues.” (Apparently the character and judgment of the potential President is not an “issue” in his book.) He reeled off a bit of biography about his relatives’ humble beginnings. It was a laundry list of meager circumstances, suggesting a growing irritation and defensiveness about his elitist image. He even noted that his story would not have been possible except in the United States. Perhaps if he had talked about this before his campaign took a nosedive it would have come across as more sincere.

Will Obama win in North Carolina? Almost certainly. (Although Clinton may try to claim a moral victory if she continues to narrow the race to mid-single digits.) But it seems unlikely he picked up many new votes by sleepwalking through the umpteenth recitation of his standard stump speech.

Both Democratic candidates addressed a large crowd Friday night at North Carolina’s Jefferson-Jackson Dinner. Hillary Clinton’s theme was two-fold: she’s going to tie George Bush around John McCain’s neck and she’s the doer/fighter. Her funniest line: “If you listen closely, you can almost hear in the distance the sound . . . of a moving van pulling away from the White House.”

As for her current race, she offered up extra helpings of praise for John and Elizabeth Edwards, but focused on her core message. “I am no shrinking violet.” She is going to fight, fight, fight (did she mention she’s going to fight?) for the middle class against big business, rich people, gas companies, and . . . well, the list goes on. There’s nothing terribly lofty. She’s selling “real and immediate solutions.” (Conservatives might scoff at the notion that any of her proposals are really “solutions,” but she has lots of them and they are immediate.) She does, however, project optimism about America and a gritty determination that America will solve its problems.

Barack Obama came later in the evening. He entered to raucous cheers but seemed tired, almost subdued. He too gave a nod to the Edwards duo, but in the perfunctory list of thank-yous at the top of his speech. Remarkably, this was largely the same speech we have heard for over and over again: the “fierce urgency of now,” babies born when he began to run who now talk and walk, the pettiness of politics, his cousin Dick Cheney won’t be on the ballot, the end of Scooter Libby justice, change we can believe in, etc. (One wonders if he has anything else in his arsenal of rhetorical weapons.) The only differences are the local touches–now it’s an Indiana group of workers being thrown into unemployment–but his dreary and bleak view of a land bereft of hope and opportunity remains. One note: his position on gas tax must be causing problems, since he defensively added a line about Clinton’s false, McCain-like solution for a gas tax holiday.

He did, at the close of his speech, mention the concerns about him. He argued that his opponents were only successful when they talked about him rather than “the issues.” (Apparently the character and judgment of the potential President is not an “issue” in his book.) He reeled off a bit of biography about his relatives’ humble beginnings. It was a laundry list of meager circumstances, suggesting a growing irritation and defensiveness about his elitist image. He even noted that his story would not have been possible except in the United States. Perhaps if he had talked about this before his campaign took a nosedive it would have come across as more sincere.

Will Obama win in North Carolina? Almost certainly. (Although Clinton may try to claim a moral victory if she continues to narrow the race to mid-single digits.) But it seems unlikely he picked up many new votes by sleepwalking through the umpteenth recitation of his standard stump speech.

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Welcome to The 18th Century

Many Muslims in London are reeling over yesterday’s mayoral victory for conservative Boris Johnson. After the terrorist attacks of 7/7, Johnson wrote “When is someone going to get 18th century on Islam’s medieval ass?”

18th century? That kind of radical modernization is a bit too much for groups like muslims4ken, which threw its support behind incumbent Ken Livingstone. “How YOU can help save us from a Zionist Mayor,” was the catchphrase employed by the Muslim Public Affairs Committee, which also supported Livingstone. (One commenter on the MPAC’s website wrote “Not wanting Londoners to get blown to bits. That is reason enough for not wanting a Zionist Mayor.”)

Livingstone, elected as an independent in 2000 and reelected as a Labour candidate in 2004, embraced radical clerics such as Yusuf al-Qaradawi and seemed to consider “Islamophobia” a greater threat to England than Islamism. Not two weeks after the 7/7 bombings, Livingstone told Sky News, “Given that the Palestinians don’t have jet planes, don’t have tanks, they only have their bodies to use as weapons.”

One can see why Islamists are heartbroken about Livingstone’s departure. Johnson is no great shakes, himself. (He’s written in favor of Western technical support for Iranian nukes). But for Livingstone, all the world is a maligned Palestine and the Westerner’s first order of business is to apologize.

The most telling bit of election analysis comes from Asim Siddiqui at comment is free:

The last time I recall the “Muslim vote” being mobilised so counter-productively was in the US during the 2000 presidential elections when American Muslims were urged to vote for George W Bush (against Al Gore and Joe Lieberman). It was felt that an Al Gore victory, coupled with an assassin’s bullet, would leave a Jewish, and presumed pro-Israel candidate, as president. Instead, they got Bush and Cheney! How’s that for a counterproductive strategy?

In other words, if Muslims knew how sympathetic George Bush was going to be towards Israel, they would have been better off taking their chances on a Jewish vice president. It’s disturbing that Muslim radicals, in London and stateside, weigh every candidate’s utility in achieving the destruction of Israel and the enactment of a Palestinian right of return.

Many Muslims in London are reeling over yesterday’s mayoral victory for conservative Boris Johnson. After the terrorist attacks of 7/7, Johnson wrote “When is someone going to get 18th century on Islam’s medieval ass?”

18th century? That kind of radical modernization is a bit too much for groups like muslims4ken, which threw its support behind incumbent Ken Livingstone. “How YOU can help save us from a Zionist Mayor,” was the catchphrase employed by the Muslim Public Affairs Committee, which also supported Livingstone. (One commenter on the MPAC’s website wrote “Not wanting Londoners to get blown to bits. That is reason enough for not wanting a Zionist Mayor.”)

Livingstone, elected as an independent in 2000 and reelected as a Labour candidate in 2004, embraced radical clerics such as Yusuf al-Qaradawi and seemed to consider “Islamophobia” a greater threat to England than Islamism. Not two weeks after the 7/7 bombings, Livingstone told Sky News, “Given that the Palestinians don’t have jet planes, don’t have tanks, they only have their bodies to use as weapons.”

One can see why Islamists are heartbroken about Livingstone’s departure. Johnson is no great shakes, himself. (He’s written in favor of Western technical support for Iranian nukes). But for Livingstone, all the world is a maligned Palestine and the Westerner’s first order of business is to apologize.

The most telling bit of election analysis comes from Asim Siddiqui at comment is free:

The last time I recall the “Muslim vote” being mobilised so counter-productively was in the US during the 2000 presidential elections when American Muslims were urged to vote for George W Bush (against Al Gore and Joe Lieberman). It was felt that an Al Gore victory, coupled with an assassin’s bullet, would leave a Jewish, and presumed pro-Israel candidate, as president. Instead, they got Bush and Cheney! How’s that for a counterproductive strategy?

In other words, if Muslims knew how sympathetic George Bush was going to be towards Israel, they would have been better off taking their chances on a Jewish vice president. It’s disturbing that Muslim radicals, in London and stateside, weigh every candidate’s utility in achieving the destruction of Israel and the enactment of a Palestinian right of return.

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Whoops

Things have gotten so bad for Barack Obama that the Clintonesque smears are now coming from his side, and they’re not even true. This story may never break through to mainstream media or the vast majority of Indiana voters–who are the topic of this fake invective from a Clinton aide sixteen years ago–but it’s worth asking who in the universe of Obamaphiles put this out. Is this a sign of abject panic in the ranks? Oh, and he now trails in both the national Gallup and Rasmussen tracking polls. Some clichés are true: when it rains, it pours.

Things have gotten so bad for Barack Obama that the Clintonesque smears are now coming from his side, and they’re not even true. This story may never break through to mainstream media or the vast majority of Indiana voters–who are the topic of this fake invective from a Clinton aide sixteen years ago–but it’s worth asking who in the universe of Obamaphiles put this out. Is this a sign of abject panic in the ranks? Oh, and he now trails in both the national Gallup and Rasmussen tracking polls. Some clichés are true: when it rains, it pours.

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