11 January 2008

Obama can't hide his Muslim past

There is something in 'rock star' Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama's life story that is not an appropriate target in polite society, but won't quite go away, and is absolutely certain to come trumpeting into view when the race gets rough.

The elephant in the room is the Muslim bit. Obama's middle name is Hussein, as in Saddam Hussein. We know that; so what? Well, there are an awful lot of Americans who fervently believe the nation belongs to God, as in the fellow you find in Church. And in their 'war of civilisations', the Muslims are the Bad Guys.

Obama, says PR man Robert Gibbs, happens to have had a dad from Kenya, so Islam and Hussein are just part of the family legacy. "Senator Obama has never been a Muslim, was not raised a Muslim and is a committed Christian who attends the United Church of Christ in Chicago."

Clear? The Los Angeles Times sent a reporter to Jakarta in Indonesia where Obama's mum, Ann Dunham, took him with husband number two, Lolo Soetoro, when he was six. His name then was Barry Soetoro, and he stayed until he was 10 years old.

"Barry was a Muslim. He went to the mosque," revealed boyhood buddy Zulfin Adi. His primary school teacher said he was registered as a Muslim and so he attended Koranic religious class.

Americans have nightmares about fervent young men who grew up in Muslim religious schools. At the very least, and however unfairly, this is dynamite material for Republicans as new national opinion polls show Obama cutting Hillary Clinton's lead to single digits.

Obama is hurriedly shifting ground. Now he was a Muslim; but never a "practising Muslim".

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