Beliefnet
God-O-Meter

obama22.jpgNico Pitney, National Editor at The Huffington Post, emails God-o-Meter to take issue with yesterday’s post on whether Obama has made himself more vulnerable to false rumors about him being Muslim by playing down his actual experiences with Islam as a child. Pitney writes:

I have to disagree on this one. What relevance does his childhood attendance at a mosque, or his father’s polygamy, have to do with whether he is Christian (and has been for his adult life)? I’m not sure why it’s Obama’s obligation to tell people of these issues that are irrelevant to the question at hand. I attended Republican rallies when I was a kid (thanks to my parents) — does this have any relevance to the political beliefs I’ve held during my entire adult life? If someone asked me my political beliefs, and I failed to tell them of these rallies, would I be acting irresponsibly?
The thing is, Obama has discussed the links to Islam in his past (including the Kristof piece), both in his first book and in talks with Jewish groups — see here — but when his campaign makes an effort to stamp out the smear, I respect the fact that they want to make the point with sledgehammer bluntness rather than a more nuanced message that addresses every incidental tie he’s had to Islam.

First off, Pitney made God-o-Meter realize that its headline–“Is Obama Blameless in False Rumors?”–implied God-o-Meter thinks Obama deserves blame for the false rumors. That was not its intention. Rather, GOM mean to suggest that Obama could be partially to blame for the efficacy of the false rumors, by failing to be completely forthright about his ties to Islam as a youth and therefore creating the impression that he was trying to conceal something. It has changed the headline.
But God-o-Meter stands by the post itself. It agrees with Pitney that Obama has no obligation to tell people about his early experiences with Islam. As a political matter, however, he leaves himself vulnerable to charges that he’s concealing something about his past ties to Islam by declining to be up front about them. For instance, so far as GOM can tell, Obama doesn’t mention in his books that his father and grandfather were polygamists. And unless the Los Angeles Times story God-o-Meter cites in its original post is wrong—no correction has run and the Obama campaign refers to it on its website—then the secular school Obama attended in Indonesia included a couple of hours a week of Qur’anic study because he was registered as a Muslim there. The link Pitney provides to Obama’s recent discussion with a Jewish group passes over these facts.
That’s fine–it’s totally Obama’s call. The question God-o-Meter attempted to raise is whether Obama has done political damage to himself with such omissions by making it seem like he has something to hide, which helps fan the completely false rumors that he’s Muslim.


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