My Egyptian husband woke me up this morning with, "Revolution!"
Many thoughts ran through my mind. Were we having another phase to the Revolution here in Egypt? Was there some sort of anniversary to commemorate?
My husband saw the questions on my face and tried again.
I wondered, "Was there an uprising in America?"
"Obama is President!"
"Oh!" I finally got it. "Congratulations!"
"Yes!" My husband remembered, "Congratulations!"
Alhumdulillah. President Barack Hussein Obama has been re-elected for his second term.
I am happy for him. I voted for him. I am a Muslim-American.
Is President Obama a Muslim? There has been so much talk regarding his religion.
It isn't the same talk Americans experienced with President Kennedy being Catholic. His critics knew he was Catholic and they wondered if elected Kennedy would bow to the wishes of the Pope. We forget about that now. We forget about bigotry against Catholics in an America where my mother in the Fifties was forbidden to date a Catholic boy.
I wonder what would have happened if my mom would have brought home a Mormon boy or a Muslim boy! Actually, it couldn't have happened. There weren't any in her city. The spread of both religions within the U.S. is more recent. Here's a comparasion of the two faiths.
I'm actually happy that Mitt Romney, as a Mormon man, wasn't unjustly targeted for his faith. His father, George Romney, had been the first Mormon candidate in 1967. Back then 17% of Americans in a Gallup poll said they wouldn't vote for a qualified candidate if he were Mormon. This year the same poll stood at 18%. It took 45 years for people to budge one percent; people who can't believe the separation of church and state.
Americans always use that phrase, "separation of church and state." It's a great ideal---but what if the place of worship is a mosque. Can we amend that to "separation of house of worship and state?" We believe that politicians can attend a religious service and then return to public service. We believe that, right?
So, the first way I want to answer the question of, "Is President Obama Muslim?" is with the retort, "So what if he is?" The religion of a servant of the people should not be as important to you as the quality and dedication of his work.
However, I know that you want to hear the REAL truth. That's hard. The real truth of our hearts is known to Allah alone; God alone. I use the words Allah and God interchangeably. There is only one God. There are three monotheistic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. For those of you who wish to know the real truth about President Obama, I will tell you this: he follows monotheism. He prays to The One True God.
Yes, I know. You want to dig deeper. Out of those three monotheistic religions, which does Obama practice? Well, we can rule out Judaism! No one has ever accused him of being Jewish. There has never been a Jewish man in The White House. Joe Lieberman was Al Gore's running mate in 2000 and that was as close as we came.
So, can we agree that Obama is either Christian or Muslim? For some people this is a big difference. Maybe for me it used to feel that way too. Yet, I've been in Islam for the last ten years while my mother, father and two oldest children have not. I can be in a family where I am a different religion than my father.
The same is true for President Obama. He can be a different religion than his father. From the sounds of it, his Kenyan father was barely practising Islam. Allahu alim; God knows. Maybe if that elder Obama had shown more of the goodness of his religion then his son might have followed. But, he didn't give much more to his son than his name.
Look in the photo above how much the boy clings to the man. It wasn't enough that he had his father's arm around his shoulders. No, Barrack had to cross his arms in front to keep his father's hand tight against his chest. The boy felt somehow that both were safe in that moment at the airport. They were together. It would be the last time they ever saw each other.
Really, the love and support, the guidance and wisdom came to young Barack from his Non-Muslim family. They showed him what he needed to find his way. His mother, Ann, was an outside observer of many faiths and let her son sample the full platter.
I was not raised in a religious household. For my mother, organized religion too often dressed up closed-mindedness in the garb of piety, cruelty and oppression in the cloak of righteousness. However, in her mind, a working knowledge of the world's great religions was a necessary part of any well-rounded education. In our household the Bible, the Koran, and the Bhagavad Gita sat on the shelf alongside books of Greek and Norse and African mythology.
On Easter or Christmas Day my mother might drag me to church, just as she dragged me to the Buddhist temple, the Chinese New Year celebration, the Shinto shrine, and ancient Hawaiian burial sites.In sum, my mother viewed religion through the eyes of the anthropologist; it was a phenomenon to be treated with a suitable respect, but with a suitable detachment as well.
from Barack Obama's The Audacity of Hope
I'm OK with that.
I'm OK with President Barack Obama trying a little of each religion and making the decision as an adult to be baptised. He was baptised into The United Church of Christ. That was my church before Islam. My mother is an ordained minister in that denomination. It's one of the most accepting and progressive churches you can find in America.
I believe that Obama is Christian. He says that he is. He testifies that he is Christian. He attends church.
For someone to disbelieve his declaration of faith, puts into question their own piety. We are taught in church to believe others when they profess faith.
Are Muslims allowed to lie about their faith? Yes, we are. We are not mandated to say that we are Muslim if we fear for our life. It is considered more important to stay alive than to speak the truth.
Is it possible that Barack Obama is lying about his faith? It's possible. Were he to do so, it would not be falling under the auspices of fearing for his life. He is free to choose his religion in America. Even if, in some ways, it is more difficult to be Muslim in America, it is not unlawful. So, if he were lying in this instance then he would be wrong to do so.
However, I want you to consider the Non-Muslim members of my family. They have gone to the mosque with me. They have prayed with me. They have fasted and broken the fast at sunset. They have listened to Quran and my older children have even learned Quran. They have used "Allah" interchangeably with "God" when discussing The Creator. Yet, they are NOT MUSLIM.
The Non-Muslim members of my family cannot be Muslim until they make a declaration of faith with the intention of being a follower of Islam. Even though my older children have said, "La illaha il Allah wa Muhamadar Rasullulah" as part of their prayers with me, I can't claim that they did so with the intention of declaring their faith.
What I have said before and I'll say again is, "The world doesn't need more Christians and it doesn't need more Muslims. It needs more bridges between the two."
A bridge between two faiths creates dialogue and understanding. A bridge unites instead of divides. It's harder to hate someone when you hold their hand. It's knowing how humanity is related and honoring the commonality we share. The world needs people to serve in this very honorable capacity.
Here's Barack Obama in 2003 with his sister Maya Soetoro-Ng at her marriage celebration in Hawaii. I doubt he calls her his, "half-sister." This picture shows an inter-mixing of ages, people, places and races. I find it incredibly beautiful. This is my America.
During his first inauguration, Maya said, "Our family is new in terms of the White House, but I don't think it's new in terms of the country. I don't think the White House has always reflected the textures and flavors of the country."
President Barack Obama truly is a bridge between many segments in society. He is a bridge between black, white and Asian. He is a bridge between East and West, rich and poor, educated and uneducated, and between Muslim and Judeo-Christian. Let's be glad that he is such a leader.
We don't need him to be on one side or the other; he doesn't have to pick a team. This isn't an elementary schoolyard. This is the world stage and the world is full of so much diversity. Let's have him be more like a referee. Let's honor his vast experiences and let him be who he is.
Truly there only one Barack Hussein Obama. He is so unique. His story is such an interwoven tapestry. How can we rip him into pieces regarding who he is?
We are also unique. Our stories are also rich with textures, colors and embellishments. Authentically being who we are in our faith is one way of allowing for others to be who they are. When we feel freedom in our core, and express it in our daily interactions, it helps others to release their fears so they can love God and one another better.
Let's enter into the next four years without fearing that President Barack Obama is Muslim. Let's lay that to rest and move on. We cannot rebuild America and the world without coming together in trust and solidarity.
Yes, we can.
May God continue to protect and guide President Barack Obama with wisdom, strength, and patience.
May God forgive us for trying to find the differences in "the other" instead of sharing the ways we are alike.