Monday, January 29, 2007

Will Obama's background become a presidential campaign issue?

Examiner.com-WASHINGTON - Although Sen. Barack Obama is a Christian, his childhood and family connections to Islam are beginning to complicate his presidential ambitions.

“In Indonesia, I had spent two years at a Muslim school,” he wrote in his first memoir, “Dreams from my Father.” “The teacher wrote to tell my mother that I made faces during Koranic studies.”

Obama — whose father, stepfather, brother and grandfather were Muslims — explained his own first name, Barack, in “Dreams”: “It means ‘Blessed.’ In Arabic. My grandfather was a Muslim.”

But with pundits already making faith a major issue in this presidential campaign — as evidenced by questions about Republican Mitt Romney’s Mormonism — Obama’s religious background is likely to come under further scrutiny.

“He comes from a father who was a Muslim,” said civil rights author Juan Williams of National Public Radio. “I mean, I think that given we’re at war with Muslim extremists, that presents a problem.”

Obama’s grandfather, Hussein Onyango Obama, for whom the senator was given his middle name, Hussein, was fiercely devoted to Islam, according to an account in “Dreams.” The grandfather, who died in 1979, was described by his widow when Obama visited Kenya in the late 1980s.

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