President Obama, a Muslim apostate?
Here is a link to Edward Luttwak’s theory that Obama is an apostate to Islam, and the implications of this. Plus two rebuttals.
- “President Apostate?“, Edward N. Luttwak, op-ed in the New York Times (12 May 2008)
- “Is Obama the Apostate, or is Bush? A Reply to Luttwak“, Prof Juan Cole, posted at Informed Comment (15 May 2008)
- “Entitled to Their Opinions, Yes. But Their Facts?“, Clark Hoyt, New York Times(1 June 2008)
The last is perhaps the most interesting. Hoyt, is the Public Editor of the NY Times. He has some revealing things to say about Luttwak and the Times itself. Excerpt (bold emphasis added):
At a time when fears about Obama’s security keep bubbling to the surface and an online whispering campaign suggests that he is secretly a Muslim – call him by his full name, Barack Hussein Obama, some Times readers demand – the Luttwak thesis was a double whammy: Obama cannot escape his Muslim history, and a lot of Muslims might want to kill him for trying.
… Did Luttwak cross the line from fair argument to falsehood? Did Times editors fail to adequately check his facts before publishing his article? Did The Times owe readers a contrasting point of view?
I interviewed five Islamic scholars, at five American universities, recommended by a variety of sources as experts in the field. All of them said that Luttwak’s interpretation of Islamic law was wrong.
David Shipley, the editor of the Op-Ed page, said Luttwak’s article was vetted by editors who consulted the Koran, associated text, newspaper articles and authoritative histories of Islam. No scholars of Islam were consulted because “we do not customarily call experts to invite them to weigh in on the work of our contributors,” he said.
… Interestingly, in defense of his own article, Luttwak sent me an analysis of it by a scholar of Muslim law whom he did not identify. That scholar also did not agree with Luttwak that Obama was an apostate or that Muslim law would prohibit punishment for any Muslim who killed an apostate. He wrote, “You seem to be describing some anarcho-utopian version of Islamic legalism, which has never existed, and after the birth of the modern nation state will never exist.”
… With a subject this charged, readers would have been far better served with more than a single, extreme point of view. When writers purport to educate readers about complex matters, and they are arguably wrong, I think The Times cannot label it opinion and let it go at that.
Matthew Yglesias imo has the definitive comment about this debate in “Where Facts are Made-Up” (1 June 2008):
As a blogger, I’m hardly in a position to dispute Luttwak’s right to opine on matters about which he knows nothing. But if I were the editor of an op-ed page and I were interested in publishing a provocative opinion piece grounded in an interpretation of Islamic law, I would try to get a scholar of Islamic jurisprudence to write it. But of course if I were the editor of an op-ed page, I would think that one of my goals was to publish articles that inform, rather than mislead, my audience. The actual op-ed editors at the NYT and Washington Post have, however, made it abundantly clear over the years that they see misleading their audience as fine — hence men like Bill Kristol and Charles Krauthammer get hired as columnists.
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Other posts about this topic
I. How the Iraq and Vietnam wars are mirror images of each other (7 February 2008) — Now we have McCain, the leading Republican Presidential candidate, talking of an open-ended commitment to victory in Iraq.
II. What do blogs do for America? (26 February 2008) — As our problems reach critical dimensions and our economy sinks into what is (at best) a severe recession, our national leadership will likely move into the hands of someone with astonishingly little capacity to govern.
III. A look at the next phase of the Iraq War: 2009-2012 (1 March 2008) — What is next in Iraq? None of the leading candidates have expressed any intention of leaving Iraq – except in the distant and vague future. McCain intends to fight so long as (or until) we suffer few casualties, then stay for a long time (perhaps a hundred years, as McCain said here and here) ). On the other hand, Obama has been quite explicit…
IV. Our metastable Empire, built on a foundation of clay (3 March 2008) — We can elect leaders with vast ambitions (foreign for McCain, domestic for Obama), but can no longer afford them.
V. How long will all American Presidents be War Presidents? (21 March 2008) — The Presidential campaign rolls on in the seventh year since 9/11, with the only debate about the Long War being in which nations America should fight. We see this even the speeches of the most “liberal” candidate, Senator Barack Obama.
VI. American history changes direction as the baton passes between our political parties (18 May 2008) – Importance of the November 2008 political landslide.
For the articles from other sources, see About the candidates for President of the United States.