Even as Barack Obama attended Easter services at a church across from the White House, a new attack was made on the president’s religious identity – and whether he really is a cypto-Muslim. Andy Martin, the controversial executive editor for ContrarianCommentary.com, argues that Obama may not be a Christian because the president has avoided choosing a regular D.C. church to attend; doesn’t regularly go to church anyway; went to mosque services as a child in Indonesia; and was born to a Muslim father. A Time magazine report on Obama’s Easter-service attendance drew this derisive comment from a reader named “rustyreturns,” who apparently shares Martin’s belief that the president is a secret Muslim: “I guess the Islamic Center in Washington DC was closed at the time they wanted to attend a ‘church’.”
And so it goes. During his campaign for the White House, Obama faced “the crypto-Muslim question” countless times – and countless times he stressed that he was a practicing Christian. But Obama’s I’m-not-a-Muslim denials were so steadfast, he offended many American Muslims, who believed he was running away from his Islamic past. Obama, they said, was distancing himself from Islam so he could get elected to the White House.
A funny thing (well, maybe not “funny” – how about “curious”) has happened in the three months since Obama’s inauguration: He’s come out of the closet – not as a practicing Muslim but a practicing Muslim sympathisizer. Obama, who never visited a mosque during the campaign, visited one of the most famous during his trip to Turkey. Obama, who would never emphasize his middle name during the campaign, displayed it with vehemence during an appearance in France.
Undoubtedly, Obama’s political enemies – Andy Martin being near the top – will use the president’s metamorphosis against him in the 2012 re-election campaign. For now, though, their darts and arrows are meaningless. (And so is the fact 11 percent of Americans think Obama really is a Muslim.) Obama feels safe enough to say in public what he feels about Islam, its adherents, and his own connection to the religion. The old Obama: In his electrifying election-night acceptance speech, he mentioned Americans of different faiths and backgrounds, but noticeably left out Muslims. The new Obama: In his first TV interview as president, he told Al-Arabiya, “I have Muslim members of my family.”
The M-word is no longer politically toxic. Obama doesn’t have to acknowledge his public shift in tone. His words say it all, anyway.