After some earlier controversy over the accuracy and provenance of stories about this, in a story entitled "Obama Says Voters Curious on His Faith," AP (thanks to all who sent this in) matter-of-factly notes that Presidential candidate Barack Obama was a Muslim when he was a child:
Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama said Sunday he does not think voters have a litmus test on religion, whether evangelical Christianity or his childhood years in the Muslim faith.
"If your name is Barack Hussein Obama, you can expect it, some of that. I think the majority of voters know that I'm a member of the United Church of Christ, and that I take my faith seriously," Obama said in an interview with The Associated Press.
It is certainly true that Muhammad, the prophet of Islam, ordered that apostates from Islam be put to death. Although this is frequently denied, his statement "Whoever changes his religion, kill him" (من بدل دينه فاقتلوه) appears in numerous authoritative Islamic sources, including Bukhari, Muslim, Tirmidhi, Abu Dawud, Ibn Majah, An-Nasai, the Muwatta of Imam Malik, Tayalisi, Ibn Hanbal, Ibn Hibban, the Sunan al-Kubraa, Bayhaqi, Abu Ya'laa, Humaidi, Abd al-Razzaq, and Ibn Abi Shaybah.
Western Muslims who claim that this is not Islamic law are often hailed as moderates and reformers. This, however, ignores the fundamental difference between denial and reform. If the Protestant Reformers had simply begun indignantly denying that the Catholic Church taught Transubstantiation and the sacramental priesthood, instead of arguing that such doctrines should be discarded, they would not have been reformers, but obfuscators. A genuine Islamic reformer today would acknowledge that the death penalty for apostasy is mainstream Islamic teaching, affirmed by all the madhahib, or schools of jurisprudence, and then explain why this should be set aside. But that is not the same thing as claiming that Islam doesn't teach this in the first place.
So is Obama under a death sentence? Probably not. As far as I know Obama has never explained when he left Islam and became a Christian. This is a crucial point, for 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.
There are several ways this could go with Obama. Fjordman writes, "This is a golden opportunity for American anti-Jihadis to expose the intolerance inherent to Islamic teachings. And it is even better that it is a man from the black community and the political Left, where Muslims find many of their sympathizers."
That is true -- it is an opportunity to call attention to this aspect of Islam that so many are so eager to cover up. However, I think that Obama's candidacy and religious history are more likely to work to the advantage of the Left and the jihadists, even if he flames out a la Howard Dean in 2004. For if the Islamic death penalty for apostasy is even allowed to come up in the mainstream media, smiling Islamic spokesmen will deny that Islam teaches this. They can even be honest and simply affirm that it doesn't apply to Obama at all, since he left Islam while still very young.
I believe it is most likely that the media and Obama's campaign will ignore the apostasy law altogether, and tar anyone who brings it up as a "bigot." The propagandists of CAIR, MPAC et al are quite savvy at portraying themselves as victims in response to presentations of uncomfortable aspects of Islam. And it is virtually inconceivable that there will be protests in the Islamic world over his apostasy, calls for his execution, etc. Remember that the Cartoon Rage and Pope Rage riots were orchestrated from above. The people who orchestrated them know enough not to shoot themselves in the foot. They (as well as Obama's campaign) have a chance here to portray Obama as someone who was raised as a Muslim and thus has a keen understanding of the Islamic world and the Islamic mind -- rather like the positioning of Bill Clinton as our "first black President." Given Obama's politics, it will not be hard to present him internationally as someone who understands Islam and Muslims, and thus will be able to smooth over the hostility between the Islamic world and the West. Muslim leaders worldwide will not be saying, "He was raised a Muslim. Isn't that terrible?" Rather, I suspect that both Obama's campaign and Muslim leaders worldwide will say, "He was raised a Muslim. Isn't that wonderful? At last, someone who can see our point of view."
In short, I will not be surprised if Obama's Muslim upbringing becomes the linchpin of an attempt to present him as the only candidate who can end the war on terror -- which, of course, he will propose to do by means of various varieties of appeasement.
Meanwhile, many, many people have been writing me, asking if he is a Muslim. I don't know anything more than anyone else: he says he isn't. Do I think he is secretly a Muslim still? No, I don't. I don't see any reason not to take him at his word. The thing that concerns me most about him is his politics, which will take us farther down the road of appeasement whatever his individual creed is.
UPDATE: The AP story has been altered, apparently in light of the fact that Obama's camp maintains he was never a Muslim.