In a July 30 Associated Press article on the religious backgrounds of the 2008 presidential candidates, reporter Tom Raum wrote that Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL), "whose middle name is 'Hussein' -- scoffs at suggestions of Muslim leanings because he spent part of his childhood in Indonesia. He is a member of the United Church of Christ." Raum gave no indication as to what "suggestions of Muslim leanings" encompass, but previous allegations that Obama was a practicing Muslim as a child in Indonesia and attended a "madrassa" have been refuted, respectively, by the Chicago Tribune and the Associated Press itself.
As Media Matters for America has documented, a January 17 InsightMag.com article claimed that "researchers connected to" Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) disclosed that Obama "spent at least four years in a so-called Madrassa, or Muslim seminary, in Indonesia." But the AP reported on January 24 that "[i]nterviews by The Associated Press at the elementary school in Jakarta found that it's a public and secular institution that has been open to students of all faiths since before the White House hopeful attended in the late 1960s."
As Media Matters also noted, a February 11 AP article asserted that Obama spent "his childhood years in the Muslim faith" and that "Obama's religious background has come under scrutiny because he attended a Muslim school in Indonesia from age 6 to 10." That contradicted its earlier reporting, in the January 24 article, that Obama's school was "public and secular" and "open to students of all faiths." A separate version of the AP's February 11 article, which appeared later that day, featured a different lead paragraph, reporting that Obama spent "his childhood years in a largely Muslim country."
In claiming that Obama has "faced suggestions of Muslim leanings because he spent part of his childhood in Indonesia," Raum might have been referring to a March 15 Los Angeles Times article asserting that "[a]s a boy in Indonesia, Barack Obama crisscrossed the religious divide. At the local primary school, he prayed in thanks to a Catholic saint. In the neighborhood mosque, he bowed to Allah." The Times claimed to have "interviewed people who grew up with Obama," and quoted "one of them," Zulfan Adi, as saying, "We prayed in the mosque ... but not seriously." However, as Media Matters noted, a March 25 Chicago Tribune article challenged many of the Times' claims. The Tribune noted that Adi -- whom the Times claimed "describe[d] himself as among Obama's closest childhood friends" -- said "he was not certain" about his claim that Obama "regularly attended Friday prayers" at the mosque with his stepfather and that he "only knew Obama for a few months, during 1970, when his family moved to the neighborhood." The Tribune further reported: "Interviews with dozens of former classmates, teachers, neighbors and friends show that Obama was not a regular practicing Muslim when he was in Indonesia."
Moreover, in noting that Obama's middle name is "Hussein," Raum suggested it fueled "suggestions of Muslim leanings," but did not note that Obama was named after his father, whom Obama described as a "confirmed atheist." Obama wrote in Time.com that "although my father had been raised a Muslim, by the time he met my mother he was a confirmed atheist, thinking religion to be so much superstition."
From Raum's July 30 AP article:
Democratic Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton emphasizes her Methodist upbringing and says her faith helped her repair her marriage.
Chief rival Sen. Barack Obama frequently uses the language of religion and proclaims a "personal relationship" with Jesus Christ. The Illinois Democrat -- whose middle name is "Hussein" -- scoffs at suggestions of Muslim leanings because he spent part of his childhood in Indonesia. He is a member of the United Church of Christ.