Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Is President Obama Muslim?

Asalamu Alaykom,

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.

"Revolution!  Obama!"

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.


Marie said...

The only thing I can say is: Whaou! (I know it's not a word but it's the first thought that crossed my mind). Brilliant lines dear. I can't agree more with every thing that you said.

And if one sentence caught my eye, it would definitely be this one: "The world doesn't need more Christians and it doesn't need more Muslims. It needs more bridges between the two."

Bridges, it's definitely what we need so we can grab each other's hands and keep remembering all along we pray the same God.

Take care.
Much love

Anonymous said...

It really does not make a difference if he is Muslim or a Christian or a Buddhist or Wiccan or has Klingon beliefs or nothing at all. Good governance, people skills and the ability to bring most factions together, long enough to make and implement policy, makes an effective President.

Deanna Troi

Yosra said...

Asalamu Alaykom Marie,

Thanks for feeling this post.

My quote you like, "The world doesn't need more Christians and it doesn't need more Muslims. It needs more bridges between the two," is something which I want to go down in history as coining. It's so true. You're one of the bridges too!

Yosra said...

Asalamu Alaykom Deanna,

Love the Trekkie name! Thanks for playing along with my request for Anonymous people to pick identities. I think she's a great one to choose! I doubt I could wear the lycra as efectively but in a virtual avatar world I guess it doesn't matter.

I like the way you phrased your beliefs. You have that mix of wisdom and humor which always reaches minds.

I was almost going to agree with you BUT...

I think a person's religion is a part of who they are. Obviously, my faith is a huge part of who I am. Islamically, the belief is that faith touches everything. So, we don't need to focus unflinchingly from disecting someone's faith. We also don't need to ignore it as if it isn't a facet of who they are.

We know that Barack Obama was America's first African-American president. We don't need to always identify him as such but it's an important fact. This part of who he is shapes his views in some way. It makes him identify with segments of the American society which Mitt Romney can't. It is also a way in which other African-Americans can see themselves in him and become more connected to their leader and their country.

So, this idea of his faith being the only focus or something we should ignore means we're losing an important connections. Let's keep President Obama connected to his faith and us acknowledging it without labeling it as an impediment.

This post is getting a lot of hits.

Love and Light to All!

Gori and Khan said...

I am sure that this post is getting a lot of hits, that doesn't surprise me at all! The faith of my President is a hot topic. So many things about him are controversial. I appreciate that your view of him is positive. We need objectivity when commenting about leaders.

I, too, like the tapestry of his family. It shows that families aren't all one color or religion. The family photo you posted is precious and indeed a picture of my ever-evolving and growing America. And also a picture of my own intercultural family.

I must confess that it is really difficult for me to remain objective about any government leader because a man (or woman) cannot be separated from his/her belief system. I like your use of the word, "faith" over religion. His religion isn't as important to me as his faith and belief system. Because this is what defines him and his character. And his character is what concerns me.

My biggest hope for this "Forward" direction of my country is that his leadership decisions will come in line with his confessed belief system. So, yes, we need bridges. We need trust and solidarity to rebuild what has been broken and torn. But more than that we need leaders with character, substance, backbone, fortitude, and a fear of the One True God. I pray that my President has this fear in his heart.

Yosra said...

Asalamu Alaykom G&K,

Thanks for your comment.

I should probably mention why I decided to write on this: so many other people were writing on it! If we, as Muslims, don't make our voices heard then someone else WILL speak for us.

It is a good point that his FAITH is more important than his religion. It's the inner rather than the outer. "Anything essential is invisible to the eye," is what The Little Prince learned. I hope we learn it too---eventually.

Love and Light!