By Robert Spencer
The Los Angeles Times reported Thursday that Barack Obama’s campaign seems to be modifying its earlier affirmation that “Senator Obama has never been a Muslim, was not raised a Muslim, and is a committed Christian who attends the United Church of Christ in Chicago.”
In a statement to The Times on Wednesday, the campaign offered slightly different wording, saying: “Obama has never been a practicing Muslim.” The statement added that as a child, Obama had spent time in the neighborhood’s Islamic center.
His former Roman Catholic and Muslim teachers, along with two people who were identified by Obama’s grade-school teacher as childhood friends, say Obama was registered by his family as a Muslim at both of the schools he attended.
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Speaking about speculation over his religious affirmation, Obama himself has said: “If your name is Barack Hussein Obama, you can expect it, some of that. I think the majority of voters know that I’m a member of the United Church of Christ, and that I take my faith seriously.”
If it is true that Obama was registered in school as a Muslim when he was a child, he could possibly be charged with being an apostate from Islam. This could give him a unique chance to speak out about the freedom of conscience and the human rights of those who leave Islam -- for Muhammad, the prophet of Islam, ordered that apostates from Islam be put to death. Although this is frequently denied, his statement “Whoever changes his religion, kill him” appears in numerous authoritative Islamic sources, including Bukhari, Muslim, Tirmidhi, Abu Dawud, Ibn Majah, An-Nasai, the Muwatta of Imam Malik, Tayalisi, Ibn Hanbal, Ibn Hibban, the Sunan al-Kubraa, Bayhaqi, Abu Ya‘laa, Humaidi, Abd al-Razzaq, and Ibn Abi Shaybah.
Western Muslims who claim that this is not Islamic law are often hailed as moderates and reformers. This, however, ignores the fundamental difference between denial and reform. If the Protestant Reformers had simply begun indignantly denying that the Catholic Church taught Transubstantiation and the sacramental priesthood, instead of arguing that such doctrines should be discarded, they would not have been reformers, but obfuscators. A genuine Islamic reformer today would acknowledge that the death penalty for apostasy is mainstream Islamic teaching, affirmed by all the madhahib, or schools of jurisprudence, and then explain why this should be set aside. But that is not the same thing as claiming that Islam doesn't teach this in the first place.
So is Obama under a death sentence? Probably not – particularly if he left Islam while still a child. This is a crucial point, for according to Islamic law an apostate male is not to be put to death if he has not reached puberty (cf. ‘Umdat al-Salik o8.2; Hidayah vol. II p. 246). Some, however, hold that he should be imprisoned until he is of age and then “invited” to accept Islam, but officially the death penalty for youthful apostates is ruled out.
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Nevertheless, if he was ever considered a Muslim at all and is now a Christian, he could still seize this opportunity to speak out for the plight of people like Abdul Rahman and other Muslim apostates who have been threatened with death for exercising their freedom of conscience. However, I think that Obama’s candidacy and religious history are more likely to work to the advantage of the Left and the jihadists, even if he flames out a la Howard Dean in 2004. For if the Islamic death penalty for apostasy is even allowed to come up in the mainstream media, smiling Islamic spokesmen will deny that Islam teaches this. They can even be honest and simply affirm that it doesn't apply to Obama at all, since he left Islam while still very young.
It is most likely that the media and Obama’s campaign will ignore the apostasy law altogether, and tar anyone who brings it up as a “bigot.” The propagandists of CAIR, MPAC et al are quite savvy at portraying themselves as victims in response to presentations of uncomfortable aspects of Islam. And it is virtually inconceivable that there will be protests in the Islamic world over his apostasy, or calls for his execution. The Cartoon Rage and Pope Rage riots were orchestrated from above. The people who orchestrated them know enough not to shoot themselves in the foot. They (as well as Obama’s campaign) have a chance here to portray Obama as someone who was raised as a Muslim and thus has a keen understanding of the Islamic world and the Islamic mind -- rather like the positioning of Bill Clinton as our “first black President.” Muslim leaders worldwide will not be saying, “He was raised a Muslim. Isn’t that terrible?” They’re more likely to say, “He was raised a Muslim. Isn’t that wonderful? At last, someone who can see our point of view.” Given Obama’s politics, it will not be hard to present him internationally as someone who understands Islam and Muslims, and thus will be able to smooth over the hostility between the Islamic world and the West – our first Muslim President.
Obama’s Muslim upbringing could become the linchpin of an attempt to present him as the only candidate who can end the war on terror. We can only hope that, if he does become President, he won’t propose to do this only by means of various varieties of appeasement.