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The Vilification of Barack Obama

At the halfway point of Obama 1.0, myths designed to alienate the president from the American people persist. In this article, the author debunks the most sinister.

The new governor of Hawaii, Neil Abercrombie, wants to end the debate over the citizenship of the 44th president of the United States, Barack Obama. He is urging the Department of Health of the state of Hawaii and the state’s attorney general to disclose whatever documentation is needed to show that President Obama was born in Hawaii on August 4, 1961. Abercrombie knew Obama’s parents and wants to diffuse the “Birther” movement which has grown within the extreme Right as a way of making Obama an alien, and therefore, unfit and ineligible to be president.

The Extreme Right taps into the international background of Obama’s background to propagate the myth. The fact that his father, Barack Obama, Sr., was a Muslim from Kenya, has been used to link the younger Obama to the Islamic faith. They ignore the fact that the senior Obama virtually renounced his Muslim faith late in his life before he died in a car accident. Obama also lived for four years in Indonesia, the most populous Muslim nation. The Extreme Right claim that he studied at a “madras” or religious school that teaches Muslim sharia law. On the contrary, Obama went to a public school where religion and school were kept separate. 

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Once again, the “Obama as Muslim” myth is a form of xenophobia perpetrated by demagogues upon the less educated and the ignorant to portray the President as un-American.

As of December, 2010, 18% of Americans polled believe Obama is a Muslim, an increase from 12% in 2009 (MSNBC, 2010). To counter this prevalent myth, the president has shared on numerous occasions that he is a Christian. His presidential campaign was plagued by connections to Rev. Jeremiah Wright, a fiery “liberation theology” preacher from whom Obama had to distance himself. Nevertheless, the myth continued to be propagated by the fact that the Obama family has not found a church home in Washington as yet. Their lack of overt religiosity fuels the myth that he is not a Christian, and therefore, not “one of us.” Whether he is or not should not make one bit of difference because in America, he has freedom of religion as all Americans do. But he is a national symbol, so he must reflect a set of values held dear by the American electorate. Obama and his family attended a church in Hawaii as they enjoyed their Christmas holiday and vacation, and they were photographed doing so. It would highly plausible that the president’s handlers made a point of framing the debate with this image to illustrate Obama’s membership among America’s Christians.

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