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Ali Eteraz Headshot

Obama Islam Smear Changes Stripes

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When the Islam smear against Obama first came out, it was based on the idea that he is currently, a Muslim.

Then the Pastor Wright controversy put that mess to rest, since Obama's affiliations to an obviously Christian Church became front and center.

Now there is a new Islam smear. This one says that Obama was a Muslim -- and as a result, he is going to arouse the wrath of Muslims around the world who are going to want to kill him for apostasy (converting away from Islam, punishable by death).

This new version comes to us via Edward Luttwak in the New York Times.

Luttwak says:

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.

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With few exceptions, the jurists of all Sunni and Shiite schools prescribe execution for all adults who leave the faith not under duress; the recommended punishment is beheading at the hands of a cleric, although in recent years there have been both stonings and hangings.

There are fundamental problems with views like Luttwak's.

First of all, under orthodox Islamic law, the punishment for apostasy can only be carried out by the state. Luttwack, with his facile understanding of Sharia, clearly doesn't understand this. The clerics Luttwack is talking about can't just stroll up to Obama and stick him in the sand. They have to go through the established procedural norms of Islamic criminal law which is inherently tied to the functioning of a state apparatus. This means that a country like Saudi Arabia or Iran or Pakistan would have to indict Obama on apostasy charges in their courts. Obviously this is not going to happen, because none of these countries have jurisdiction over Obama. Not only is it asinine for any of these countries to make such an indictment, it doesn't make sense under international law -- which, in case Mr. Luttwack has forgotten, is what the world is suppose to abide by. Luttwack's affirmation of Islamic law over and above international law should raise concerns, not only about his expertise, but also his allegiances.

Second, it may be true that there will be fanatics who believe that they can flout the rules of Islamic law and try to assassinate Obama without permission from a state. However, these people probably want to assassinate American presidents regardless -- so considering their opinion is a bit farcical. Is there a functional difference between a fanatic that wants to kill our president because he is a Western Cowboy and a fanatic that wants to kill our president because he is a Western Apostate? Luttwack's article is solid fear-mongering.

Third, people that appear to be Muslims, but don't follow Islam and choose another religion, are permitted under Islamic law to leave Islam without penalty. A major case in Malaysia recently handed down -- a woman who was Muslim for some time in order to marry an Iranian was permitted to go back to Buddhism -- is an example. Obama, unlike the Malaysian woman, didn't even make a profession of faith to Islam, so it makes even less sense for him to be considered an apostate.

Fourth, Islamic law recognizes abandonment by the biological father. Obama's Kenyan father abandoned Obama. As such, any religious imprimatur he may have had over Obama -- which is already a stretch since the man was an atheist -- is null and void. In such a situation, Obama's mother's religion is controlling. She was not Muslim. Even if someone makes the argument from patriarchy: that Obama's paternal grandparents were his rightful guardians, that would fail since they also constructively abandoned him.

There is a corollary issue here: what about the fact that Obama's second father, the Indonesian, was a "non-practicing Muslim." Doesn't his faith transfer over to Obama? The answer is no. Under Islamic law, step-fathers do not acquire ownership over the child. Their relationship to the child emanates from their relationship to the child's mother. Again, Obama's mother was not Muslim. If a practicing Muslim man marries a Christian woman with children from a previous marriage, her children wouldn't automatically become Muslim. Here, the new father wasn't even practicing.

Luttwack and the other fake experts promoting this new smear do not understand Islam. Religion is not hereditary as it is in Judaism. Islam is not a race. Just because a child has a Muslim father -- which, again, Obama didn't -- doesn't mean anything unless the child is being raised as a Muslim. At the time of birth, Muslims engage in a symbolic act -- of saying the Call to Prayer in the child's ear -- that renders a child Muslim. If Obama's father was agnostic/atheist, then he wouldn't have done such a thing.

No call to prayer in the ear, not raised as a Muslim, born to an atheist father, and then abandoned to a Christian mother both by father and his family, equals not Muslim. Obama is right to say he had no religion until he became a Christian.

Those who actually study Muslims see that there are millions of inter-religious marriages -- between Muslim men and Hindu women for example -- in which the children are being raised as pantheists, or even, Hindu. When these children grow up, they aren't killed for being apostates (though some Muslims do thumb their noses at the father for "allowing" his children to be raised non-Muslim).

By the way, Boris Johnson, the new mayor of London, who has a Turkish grandfather, is often smeared the same way Obama is in Luttwack's article (see the picture at the bottom). In the case of the UK, the smears come from the ultra-right BNP party. Great to see that the New York Times has followed suit. I recommend that we begin calling the Islam smear what it really is: smearing immigrants.

www.alieteraz.com