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The Muslim myth about Obama: He's in good company

The bigoted and ignorant allegations that President Obama is a Muslim call to mind slurs against past US presidents. Critics called Lincoln a Catholic and labeled Jefferson an atheist.

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The right wing’s challenge of President Obama’s religious beliefs and the whispering campaign that he is a closet Muslim are more than just shameful bigotry. They are an attack on religious freedom.

I have yet to see a scintilla of evidence that Barack Obama is a Muslim. But so what if he were? The US Constitution makes clear: “[N]o religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.” And doesn’t the First Amendment guarantee religious freedom to all of us?

Who are these people who preach this ignorance and bigotry, who equate the monotheistic religion of 1.57 billion human beings with evil?

The number of Americans who believe Obama is a Muslim has jumped substantially since March 2009, to 18 percent, according to a recent Pew Research Center poll. That’s frightening. But it says more about the 18 percent’s ignorance of Islam than it does about the president’s religious beliefs.

Where's the evidence?

Has Obama ever taken a hajj (pilgrimage) to Mecca’s Masjid al-Haram (The Sacred Mosque)? Has anyone seen video of the president walking around the Kaaba stone in a white sheet? That ritual is televised round the clock on Arabic television around the world but no one has ever seen a single frame of Obama there.

Perhaps someone has a photo of Obama down on his knees on a prayer rug in the Oval Office? Pilgrimage and daily prayers are just two of the five pillars of Islam that all followers must perform – the others are the profession of faith, charity, and fasting. Sure, the president looks undernourished but not because he fasted during the month of Ramadan. He’s probably reed-thin because he worries a lot. If Obama is a Muslim, he’s a pretty lousy one.

The fallacy that Obama is a secret Muslim has most recently been nurtured by the Rev. Franklin Graham, son of Billy Graham and head of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. He said of the president, “He was born a Muslim, and his father gave him an Islamic name” and “the seed of Islam passed through the father.”

Actually, Obama says his father was a committed atheist, but Obama’s critics never seem to allow the facts to get in the way of a good story.

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