As an Orthodox Jew, I believe that membership in a religion is not casual but legal, something like American citizenship (if you support the good people of Arizona). You can’t just cross the Rio Grande and vote in Phoenix. There is a rigerous citizenship process, a conversion process, or there is Judaism’s singular qualification — being born to a Jewish mother.
But according to my non-Orthodox "Progressive" friends, religion is as religion does, you are what you feel, what you seem, and to the left of Conservative Jews (though surely soon for Conservative Jews, too), you are Jewish if your father was. Intermarried people, technically non-Jews, who never converted, are allowed to participate in the Sabbath services of many liberal synagogues. The Jewish people are filling up with "illegal aliens" given amnesty. Non-Jews claim Jewish credentials by virtue of how they act, not what they actually are.
There are always stories in the papers about soldiers who’ve been killed while serving in the Israeli army but who can’t be buried in Jewish cemetaries because these tragic soldiers are not Jewish, and therefore must can only be buried in non–Jewish cemetaries. There always follows an uproar from non-halachic Jews — how dare we not bury them in the cemetaries where they want to be buried after what these soldiers did for the Jewish State!
Boy, are the Orthodox mean. Don’t they know that religion has nothing to do with being Jewish?
By those modern and widespread standards in the Jewish community, where someone’s religion is not judged by legality but by feelings and sympathy, then I’m getting more comfortable with the idea that Obama is a Muslim. Sure, he is technically a Christian, I know, he spent more than 20 years in Trinity Church in the pews of his spiritual mentor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, the crude anti-Semitic and anti-American friend of Louis Farrkahn. You can’t choose your family but yes, you can choose your mentors.
I know, Obama is a Christian by virtue of his maternal family, his mother was a Christian.
And yet, by the modern Jewish standards of patrilinial descent, no questions asked, no-fault religion, Obama is a Muslim.
He is Muslim by patrilineal descent and what seems to be Islamic halacha.
As an op-ed contributor wrote in The New York Times in 2008, "In Islam, however, there is no such thing as a half-Muslim. Like all monotheistic religions, Islam is an exclusive faith. As the son of the Muslim father, Senator Obama was born a Muslim under Muslim law as it is universally understood. It makes no difference that, as Senator Obama has written, his father said he renounced his religion. Likewise, under Muslim law based on the Koran his mother’s Christian background is irrelevant."
There is no provision in Judaism to renounce your religion, either.
So Obama is a Muslim because of his father — patrilineal descent — is one legitimate "halachic" position, although the topic has become so politicized it has rarely been seriously explored in most newspapers, Jewish or otherwise. The idea that Obama might be a Muslim was so quickly branded a slur by the left and the Obama camp, in particular, and protecting Obama had become uppermost in the minds of so many journalists, that most Americans haven’t been exposed to an intelligent "comparative religion" discussion about this. The topic is often handled with a schoollyard brush-off, even in usually serious newspapers, by usually serious people: "He’s not a Muslim, and you’re stupid for saying so."
Yet, for those of us who like our religion discussed at length and with seriousness, what about the assertions in the Times’ paragraph? Maybe if the topic was dealt with intelligently and properly — not politically — it wouldn’t still be an issue going the wrong way in the polls for Obama a full two years later.
And what of the "non-halachic" point of view?
If service in the IDF, or working and living among the Jewish people, is the criteria, Obama had for years lived and studied and prayed among Muslims as a youth in Indonesia. As president, he has served the Islamic people by the shameless pro-Islamic tilt of his Cairo speech "to the Islamic world" in which he linked modern Zionism to the aftershock of the Holocaust instead of telling the Islamic world that Jews are an indigneous people in the Land of Israel; by severely pressuring Israel but not the Palestinians; by treating Prime Minister Netanyahu with greater contempt than any Israeli leader has ever been treated by any president; by eliminating terms such as "jihad" and Islamic terror" from official government usage; by having one person in his administration refer to Jerusalm as Al-Quds, and another deny Islamic motivation to obviously Islamic motivated acts of terror (such as in Fort Hood), and by yet another Obama-appointee teling Al-Jazeera that Obama told him that one of the main jobs of the director of NASA, our space program, is to reach out to the Islamic world, a responsibility that somehow eluded Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy when we first put men into space.
By every halacha-be-damned modern Jewish colloquial standard of who is a "member of the tribe," Obama is a Muslim, every bit as much as he is a Christian. Two religions are OK in most modern Jewish homes, with Christmas trees and menorahs sharing the same living room, and Obama’s childhood living room was both Islamic and Christian. He rejected neither, though Islam became politically inconvenient, which why he didn’t use his middle name Hussein publically until he was safely elected and inaugurated as "Barack Hussein Obama." And that is why the centerpiece of his foreign policy became outreach to the Islamic world while threatening Israel if they so much as built an apartment house in a Jewish neighborhood in Jerusalem, while Obama made zero demands on the Palestinian Abbas.
I’m not the only one who sees this. An increasingly number of Americans do, as well. WIth the end of legalistic standards of identification within almost all ethnic and religious groups, Americans are figuing, yeah, this guy sure seems like a Muslim. The protective ring of liberal journalistic propaganda that immunized Obama, at least for a while, is wearing off.
Americans are a practical people. If it walks like a duck, and talks like a duck…
According to a new poll from the highly respected Pew Research Center, with interviews in both English and Spanish, nearly one-in-five Americans (18%) now say Obama is a Muslim, up from 11% in March 2009.
Only about one-third of adults (34%) say Obama is a Christian, down sharply from 48% in 2009. Fully 43% say they do not know what Obama’s religion is. And this survey was completed in early August, before Obama’s favorable comments about the Ground Zero mosque.
It’s not just Republicans, though leftists would prefer that you think so. According to Pew, "the number of independents who say Obama is a Muslim has also increased significantly (up eight points)," and "fewer Democrats today say he is a Christian (down nine points since 2009). Say that again? Even fewer Democrats say Obama is Christian.
Sixty percent of those who say Obama is a Muslim said they came to that conclusion through the media, the overwhelmingly liberal media. The people see and hear Obama in action, with 11 percent being more specific, saying it is not the media as intermediary but they figure Obama is a Muslim from his own "words and behavior," reports Pew.
Are Americans really as stupid as some politicians, Jewish leaders and journalists would have you believe? How is it that the more Americans know about Obama, the more Americans think he is Muslim?
Many Americans grew up with the old Lenny Bruce routine on "Jewish and Goyish." As Lenny said, "Dig: I’m Jewish. Count Basie’s Jewish. Ray Charles is Jewish. Eddie Cantor’s goyish…. Kool-Aid is goyish…. Pumpernickel is Jewish, and, as you know, white bread is very goyish. Instant potatoes–goyish. Black cherry soda’s very Jewish. Macaroons are very Jewish–very Jewish cake. Fruit salad is Jewish. Lime jello is goyish. Lime soda is very goyish."
By Lenny Bruce standards, we can say that Obama is as Islamish as lime jello is goyish.
Of course, as a Jew who respects halacha and the legal codes of other religions, I know full well that Obama is a Christian by matrilineal descent, that he was raised in a two-religion home to understand and love both Islam and Christianity. He probably tilts toward Islam now because perhaps he resents how for so many years, fighting to reach the top, he could only admit to Christianity, forced by politics or (a lack of a courage) to deny his father. Now he is a free to be as he chooses.
My non-Orthodox friends who have drummed it into my head that a Jew is anyone who sort of seems like it, halacha and technicalities be damned, so I’m increasingly of the belief that, yes, Obama is a Muslim — actually, like many children of intermarried parents, he is both Christian and Muslim. There have been numerous articles in Jewish papers regarding Chelsea Clinton’s marriage to a Jew, and how Jewish that child might be, even if that child is officially a Methodist.
In a very real sense, Obama is that child. Like Chelsea’s child, the father looms.
OK, OK, Obama’s a Christian, please don’t waterboard me, I’ll confess. I’m not saying Obama prays to Allah, eats Halal, or is in any way a religious Muslim. Hardly. But I’ve been taught by my Reform, Secular and intermarried friends that a Jew doesn’t have to believe in God, or daven, or eat kosher, or be in any way observant, or even have a Jewish mother to be Jewish. These Jews can even go to church and marry a Christian (as did Obama), and raise their children as Christians. These sort of Jews can followed around by a private detective for a month and provide no evidence of being Jewish, but they can be very Jewish deep down, feeling profoundly connected to the Jewish people, coming through when they sense that they are needed by the Jewish people. Many of us have no problem calling people like that Jewish.
We can call Obama a Muslim by that standard. Obama now seems to sense that the Islamic people need him, the Palestinians need him, the Muslims who wish that the evil disgrace of Islamic fascism would just go away, those embarrassed Muslims need him. Obama has responded.
But, in the process, the American people have been responding to something about Obama, too.
How do you say "walks like a duck and talks like a duck" in Arabic?