20 January 2007
Obama: the smears commence
It looks as if the 2008 presidential campaign is going to be pretty dirty affair, particularly for Barack Obama. Even before throwing his hat into the ring the smear campaigns have started which attempt to portray him as little more than a Muslim version of the Manchurian Candidate.
I must admit I was unaware of the mudslinging until I received my weekly About urban legends newsletter yesterday. It reports that email circulars are currently doing the rounds claiming that Obama is a secret Muslim. The circulars claim that:
His father Barack Obama sr was a radical Muslim
After divorcing his father, his mother married another Muslim and moved to Indonesia. While in Djakarta Barack attended a Wahabist madrassa for two years.
Obama admits that he was once a Muslim
Obama’s membership of the Universal Church of Christ is simply an expedient move to hide his true religious adherence
Needless to say, Obama has never said he was a Muslim at any point in his life and his father was apparently either an atheist or an agnostic by the time he attended university in the USA. After divorcing his father, his mother did marry an Indonesian who was a non practising Muslim. Although he attended both catholic and Muslim primary schools while in Djakarta there is, of course, no evidence that he attended a Wahabist school.
It was not until I Googled “Obama Muslim” and got over a million returns that I realised it was such a contentious issue! Conservative commentators such as Debbie Schlussel had already thrown The “once a Muslim always a Muslim” jibe at Obama – his father was born a Muslim, he is thus a Muslim by definition.
Meanwhile the conservative American magazine Insight alleges that not only did Obama attend a Madrassa (with all the connotations that word has) but that the source of the claim originates from close to Hilary Clinton.
It would seem that he is going to have a very tough fight to secure the Democratic nomination; let alone the presidency. Sadly it does not matter whether any of this is true or not. If people start believing then no amount of correction, clarification or refutation will change their minds. I have no particularly strong views on Obama’s merits as a presidential candidate but this furore has certainly piqued my interest. Just as the Skibbereen Eagle (apocryphally) had its eye on the Tsar, I will have my eye on this story…