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By Matthew Streib
Religion News Service

WASHINGTON (RNS) Several Jewish leaders have come to the defense of presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama against rumors that he secretly espouses radical Muslim beliefs.
In a joint letter, leaders of nine Jewish groups including the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the American Jewish Congress characterized the e-mail rumor campaign as hateful and intended to “manipulate (Jews) into supporting or opposing candidates.”
Since 2006, rumors have circulated that Obama, D-Ill., was educated in a radical Muslim school in Indonesia, took his congressional oath of office on the Quran, or is involved in Wahhabism, a conservative sect of Islam popular in Saudi Arabia. In December, the Hillary Clinton campaign called for resignations from any Clinton volunteers who may have forwarded such e-mails.
Obama says he was not religious as a child, and was baptized at the Trinity United Church in Chicago in 1988, eight years before he was elected to the Illinois State Senate.
At Tuesday’s Democratic presidential candidate’s debate in Las Vegas, Obama reiterated his religious stance. “I am a Christian. I have been sworn in with a Bible,” he said. “I pledge allegiance and lead the Pledge of Allegiance sometimes in the United States Senate, when I’m presiding.”
The Jewish leaders released their letter Tuesday, just as Obama was trying to distance himself from the Rev. Louis Farrakhan, longtime leader of the Nation of Islam. A magazine published by Obama’s church granted Farrakhan an award last year because he “truly epitomized greatness.”
Obama won the award this year.
Obama said he did not agree with giving the award to Farrakhan, whom many consider anti-Semitic.
Copyright 2008 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of this transmission may be distributed or reproduced without written permission.

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