Sunday, January 21, 2007

Barack Obama, a madrassa, and an e-mail: UPDATED

Okay, it's time for me to talk about the Barack Obama madrassa story. Based on your source, Barack Obama attended a Muslim school, that is a madrassa, while living in Indonesia with his Kansas-born mother and her Muslim Indonesian second husband for two years--the other two years the future senator attended a Catholic school there. Or he went to a Muslim school all four years in Indonesia.

According to his book Audacity of Hope, Obama lived Indonesia for four years, 1967-1971. In the book, Obama doesn't get specific about his schooling there, writing:

Without the money to go to the international school that most expatriate children attended, I went to local Indonesian schools and ran the streets with the children of farmers, servants, and clerks.

Barack's father, Barack Hussein Obama Sr. was raised a Muslim, but according to the Illinois senator, the elder Barack was an atheist.

Both Obama Sr. and his mother, Ann Dunham, are deceased.

Obama's stepfather, Lolo Soetoro--I don't know if he's still living--is generally described as a non-practicing Muslim in the few sources where I can find mention of him.

Then there's the e-mail with the heading, "Let Us Remain Alert!" The e-mail can be found in this Nation article.

In essence the e-mail portrays Obama as a Muslim "Manchurian Candidate" brainwashed by Wahhabi extremists at his madrassa, and that he could be a threat to the United States if he wins the presidency. Problem: Saudi Arabia, home of the extreme form of Islam known as Wahhabism, didn't have the money to fund Muslim schools outside its borders until OPEC began its continuing and unfortunately successful policy of price gouging in 1973.

By that time Obama was living in Hawaii with his maternal grandparents, attending an elite private school.

As far as I can ascertain, Obama was brought up as a secularist. He recently told the Chicago Sun-Times editorial board:

My faith is complicated by the fact that I didn't grow up in a particular religious tradition.

Last week Insight Magazine published an article on Barack's madrassa past, and claims the information on Obama came from the Hillary Clinton camp. But what's in the Insight article matches what's in the "Let Us Remain Alert!" e-mail. But who wrote the e-mail and started distributing it? Is this the first dirty trick of the 2008 presidential campaign?

I received the e-mail several times; the first time was two weeks ago. The Obama people undoubtedly got it too, and in a possible counterstrike, managed today to get this Chicago "free registration required" Tribune article about the church where Obama is a member, the Trinity United Church of Christ, into the paper on the front page, below-the-fold.

The large South Side Chicago church gets a lot of inspiration from the late 1960s "Black Power" movement.

The term "Audacity of Hope," Obama wrote, comes from sermon by the church's pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright.

I instantly noticed two glaringly obvious errors in the Fox & Friends report on Obama and his madrasssa schooling. Steve Doocy says that Obama lived in Indonesia for a decade--and as I stated earlier, Obama lived there for only four years. Brian Kilmeade claims that Obama's use of composite characters in his first book, Dreams from My Father, was first noticed by the Chicago Tribune, and the paper blew the whistle on him.

But as Obama writes in the introduction of that book:

For the sake of compression, some of the characters that appear are composites of people I've known, and some appear out of precise chronology. With the exception of my family and a handful of public figures, the names of most characters have been changed for the sake of privacy.

I'm reading Dreams from My Father now.

Barack's full name is Barack Hussein Obama, Jr. Over the last month, much has been made of his middle name. While discussing this with a friend of mine this morning during weekly downtown running get-together with some friends of mine, "Hussein" came up.

And one of my buddies responded, "But he didn't choose that name."

I still believe Obama's biggest hurdle to overcome is the well-documented muck of Illinois politics, as I blogged last week.

Hat tip to Pat Curley of Brainster for the Fox & Friends link.

UPDATE Jan. 22: While plowing through Dreams from My Father, I discovered that Obama's stepfather, Lolo Soetoro, died many years ago of liver disease.

About Soetoro's faith: Here's what Obama wrote in the same book:

Lolo followed a brand of Islam that could make room for the remnants of more ancient animist and Hindu faiths. He explained that a man cold take on the powers of whatever he ate: One day soon, he promised, he would bring home a piece of tiger meat for us to share.

Earlier this morning, Fox & Friends did a follow up story on their Friday report, the one available from YouTube. They said that the Obama camp said it was "completely false" that Obama attended a radical Islamic school. Also, Hillary Clinton's staff denies feeding the story to Insight Magazine.

UPDATE Jan. 23: CNN sent reporter John Vause to Obama's old school yesterday, and Vause discovered, as I stated above, that the school is not a Wahhabi-inspired institution. CNN tracked down an ex-classmate of the senator, who described the school as "general."

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