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Arabs: Obama ‘One of Us'
October 29, 2008
While Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama “has tried
to push his origins into the background, his ‘Islamic roots’ have won
him a place in many Arabs’ hearts.”
That’s the observation of Iranian-born commentator Amir Taheri,
whose column in Tuesday’s New York Post notes that many Arabs and
other Muslims see Obama as “one of them.”
They see that Obama has Arabic-Islamic first and middle names: Barack
means “blessed” and Hussein means “beautiful.” His last
name is Swahili, an East African language based on Arabic, Taheri writes.
His sister is named Oumah, Arabic for “the community of the
faithful;” his daughter Malia bears the name of a daughter of the
noted Caliph Othman; and his father and stepfather were both
Although Taheri did not note it, Obama was raised partially as a Muslim
when he lived in Indonesia with his mother and stepfather. While there, he
studied at two schools and was registered at both as a Muslim student.
As such he received Islamic religious instruction, studied the Koran,
and prayed with other students. He did attend mosque, albeit infrequently,
with his stepfather.
Obama’s religious upbringing after Indonesia is somewhat of a mystery
until his late 20s. At that point, Obama says he converted to Christianity
after meeting the Rev. Jeremiah Wright in Chicago.
Still, Obama has maintained strong support from American Muslims,
including Louis Farrakhan’s Nation of Islam movement. Farrakhan
has endorsed Obama and has called him the “messiah.”
These factors have made Obama a big hit in the Arab world, where he has
received wide praise, including:
Some columnists also have noted Obama’s close ties to several
Palestinian radicals, including Columbia University Prof. Rashid
Khalidi — former communications director for the Palestinian
Liberation Organization — and another Palestinian political activist,
the late Edward Said.
The “Arab street” also favors Obama. Recent surveys found that he
is the preferred candidate in Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Algeria, Syria,
Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.
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