In an article in FrontPage Magazine, Islamic scholar Daniel Pipes concludes that "available evidence suggests" Barak Obama:
"was born a Muslim to a non-practicing Muslim father and for some years had a reasonably Muslim upbringing under the auspices of his Indonesian step-father. At some point, he converted to Christianity. It appears false to state, as Obama does, "I've always been a Christian" and "I've never practiced Islam." The campaign appears to be either ignorant or fabricating when it states that "Obama never prayed in a mosque."
Pipes goes on to analyze the possible implications of this personal history.
Obama's conversion to another faith, in short, makes him a murtadd. That said, the punishment for childhood apostasy is less severe than for the adult version. As Robert Spencer points out, "according to Islamic law an apostate male is not to be put to death if he has not reached puberty (cf. Umdat al-Salik o8.2; Hidayah vol. II p. 246). Some, however, hold that he should be imprisoned until he is of age and then invited' to accept Islam, but officially the death penalty for youthful apostates is ruled out."
On the positive side, were Obama prominently charged with apostasy, that would uniquely raise the issue of a Muslim's right to change religion, taking a topic on the perpetual back-burner and placing it front and center, perhaps to the great future benefit of those Muslims who seek to declare themselves atheists or to convert to another religion.
Pipes cites the following evidence as the "smoking gun" in Obama's early Muslim raising:
" In "Obama Debunks Claim About Islamic School," Nedra Pickler of the Associated Press wrote on January 24, 2007, that Obama's mother, divorced from Obama's father, married a man from Indonesia named Lolo Soetoro, and the family relocated to the country from 1967-71. At first, Obama attended the Catholic school, Fransiskus Assisis, where documents showed he enrolled as a Muslim, the religion of his stepfather. The document required that each student choose one of five state-sanctioned religions when registering Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Catholic or Protestant. "
Further evidence is found in statements made by his childhood friends:
Two months later, Paul Watson of the Los Angeles Times (available online in a Baltimore Sun reprint) reported that the Obama campaign had retreated from that absolute statement and instead issued a more nuanced one: "Obama has never been a practicing Muslim." The Times looked into the matter further and learned more about his Indonesian interlude:
His former Roman Catholic and Muslim teachers, along with two people who were identified by Obama's grade-school teacher as childhood friends, say Obama was registered by his family as a Muslim at both schools he attended. That registration meant that during the third and fourth grades, Obama learned about Islam for two hours each week in religion class.
The childhood friends say Obama sometimes went to Friday prayers at the local mosque. "We prayed but not really seriously, just following actions done by older people in the mosque," Zulfin Adi said. "But as kids, we loved to meet our friends and went to the mosque together and played." Obama's younger sister, Maya Soetoro, said in a statement released by the campaign that the family attended the mosque only "for big communal events," not every Friday.
Pipes argues that worldwide Muslim perceptions of Obama's arguable apostasy should at least be addressed by the Obama campaign.
We wonder if this issue will be discussed in the public dialogue of the campaign, or if Pipes' article will be ignored.