Well if you thought that President Obama’s religion was cleared up years ago, you would be wrong. While most of the Republican nomination polls focused on the four remaining Republican candidates, a recently released poll conducted by Public Policy Polling (PPP), showed that 45% of Republicans surveyed in Alabama believe that President Obama is a Muslim. Only 14% indicated they believed President Obama is Christian and 41% said they’re “not sure.”
Not to be outdone, 52% of respondents from Mississippi said they believed President Obama is a Muslim while 36% said they were unsure and a paltry 12% saying they believed he is Christian. This is not particularly surprising for a region where less than 75% of those polled in each state believe interracial marriage should be legal (66% and 54% in Alabama and Mississippi respectively). These beliefs persist despite the concerted effort put forth by the President, both before and during his presidency, to combat allegations that he is a “secret” Muslim.
Fact: President Obama is NOT a Muslim
Still, whether questions concerning Obama’s “true” faith may stem from lingering racism, especially since Obama himself is the product of an interracial marriage, or if it is part of the heightened level of xenophobia that has become more prevalent in the post-9/11 America, anti-Obama groups have made a point of perpetuating this particular lie.
While some members of the more radical right have directly stated, through interviews, blogs, or emails, that they believe President Obama is a Muslim, mainstream media outlets like Fox News have also done their share to foster doubts about Obama’s religion.
Questions posed on air like “Is Barack Obama actually a Christian?” even if the eventual answer is “yes,” still indicate to viewers that this is a legitimate question to be asking and a reasonable doubt to have. The fact that these questions dovetail neatly with much of the dialogue surrounding the “war on terror,” makes what might otherwise be categorized as xenophobia appear like reasonable concern.
Even this week, Fox News, in a maneuver that seemed to be trying to turn the Democrats’ assertions that President Obama is not a Muslim back on them, asked what would be so wrong if Obama was, in fact, a Muslim. No matter how it is framed, the fact remains that the question is still being posed, and for people who are already looking for information to confirm what they believe, powerful figures in the media who appear to have the same concerns act as validation.
This also might explain why Republican candidate Rick Santorum, who has accused Obama of practicing a “phony theology—not one based on the Bible,” is so popular with the super-conservatives, winning both Alabama and Mississippi in this week’s primaries. Though Santorum later clarified that his remark about “phony theology” was not meant to question Obama’s faith, it, like the not-so-subtle questions and innuendos by conservative pundits and media personalities, is a way of reinforcing and playing upon the fears of the misinformed right.
Network giant NBC however, warned viewers that the poll was an automated one and the question may have been phrased to garner such extreme opinions.
But, whether or not the poll came from the liberal left or even if Santorum and members of the Republican media believe Obama is a Muslim is irrelevant. When it comes down to it, it’s politically advantageous for voters to believe that Obama could be Muslim. It allows candidates to play on fears, making it appear that he shares their same concerns and sees the same dangers they do. It means that Republicans can talk about the restoring American (read: Christian) values. By continuing to make Obama appear as a dangerous usurper, it makes anyone, even Rick Santorum, look like the better option.