I’ve run across yet another reference to President Obama’s supposedly Muslim father, this time in a magazine that I subscribe to and like, The Atlantic.
In addition to its academic and international affairs origins, Obama’s attitudes toward Islam clearly stem from his personal interactions with Muslims. These were described in depth in his candid memoir, Dreams from My Father, published 13 years before his election as president. Obama wrote passionately of the Kenyan villages where, after many years of dislocation, he felt most at home and of his childhood experiences in Indonesia. I could imagine how a child raised by a Christian mother might see himself as a natural bridge between her two Muslim husbands. I could also speculate how that child’s abandonment by those men could lead him, many years later, to seek acceptance by their co-religionists.
Leaving aside Oren’s highly suspect psychologizing of Barack Obama, there is a more important error here:
President Obama’s father wasn’t Muslim; he was atheist.
In a limited sense — not one that would be sufficient for Oren’s purposes — the assertion that the President’s father was a Muslim is true, in that as a young child Barack Obama Sr. was very briefly Muslim, until roughly the age of six when he converted to Christianity (Anglicanism) while at a missionary school. But in any case, he later rejected that religion, and religion in general, before he ever married Ann Dunham and before Barack Obama Jr. was born. He was not the “Muslim husband” or “co-religionist” that Oren writes of.
Not that it should matter if our President had a Muslim father, of course, but as it happens, he didn’t. His father was an atheist.
Although minor, I wish this error would be called out more often by journalists, editors, and interviewers. Freedom of conscience is for Kenyan immigrants too. What a pity that the man of whom Barack Obama Jr. wrote “he was a confirmed atheist, thinking religion to be so much superstition” should be remembered by the American public primarily by a religious affiliation he did not hold.
It is true that Obama’s grandfather on his father’s side was Muslim — he converted from Roman Catholicism.