There’s something that’s been nagging me in the back of my head since I learned how popular Barack Obama was, not only in Kenya or Africa but all over the Nation of Islam. I chose not to talk about the matter publicly, since I was afraid that it might wake up some radical clerics, who could give fanatics bad ideas. I now realize that it’s such an obvious point that they couldn’t have possibly overlooked it. Besides, they don’t read my blog, do they? So I don’t see any harm if I post here.
First, the reasons for Mr. Obama’s popularity: Obviously, he’s not President Bush, and that helps everywhere, not just in the Nation of Islam. But just as important, if not more so, is his paternity: He is the biological son of a Black African and the stepson of an Indonesian, both fathers being from Islamic communities.
My use of the term “from Islamic communities” is deliberate. Although Mr. Obama’s fathers grew up as Moslems, his Kenyan biological fathre was a Moslem turned atheist, and his Indonesian stepfather’s personal relationship with the Islamic religion appears to have been tenuous at best. His fathers were apostates.
Now I am no scholar of Islam (or anything else, actually), but I’ve been given to understand that apostasy is the greatest crime against God that a Moslem can commit. In fact, according to most Islamic schools of jurisprudence, an adult male apostate must be executed. Mr. Obama is likely in a somewhat better situation than his fathers, since he did turn to Christianity, placing him among the “People of the Book” (which, as you know, also includes Jews and Sabeans). Still, if he had been a Muslim at any point before that, though at most a highly unobservant one, he would, I suspect, still be considered an apostate. At a minimum, his nature/nurture is nothing to boast about, and it is clear that he has failed to redress his fathers’sins.
All this must be Islam 101. So why are learned Mullahs and Imams silent on this point?
My guess is that the average Moslem man-in-the-street could care less—they’re just happy that there’s a non-Bush who opposed the invasion of Iraq who, very broadly speaking, also happens to be one of us in more ways than one. In fact, I couldn’t find any Obama questions on the English-language Ask the Imam websites that I visited. There could be serious anti-Obama chatter on Arab-language websites or radical Islam forum that I’m completely missing, but wouldn’t we be hearing about that if there was?
My guess is, the street and the bazaars like Mr. Obama, and the religious forces are not going to press a point that would make them unhappy. Apparently, Islamic clerics bow to the desires of the laic too. That’s heartening. You know, Chris Hitchens shouldn’t be so alarmed.*
* Okay, maybe he’s just congenitally angry.
I know so little about this entire field, so you’ll be doing me a great favor if you can tell me anything I don’t know about this, even, or particularly, if it makes me look like an idiot.