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.

  1. President Apostate?“, Edward N. Luttwak, op-ed in the New York Times  (12 May 2008)
  2. Is Obama the Apostate, or is Bush? A Reply to Luttwak“, Prof Juan Cole, posted at Informed Comment (15 May 2008)
  3. 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.

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.



11 thoughts on “President Obama, a Muslim apostate?”

  1. Ralph Hitchens

    I deeply admire Luttwak, a wonderfully provocative military historian, but sometimes his widely-roving intellect puts him in deep water. This seems to be a case where he did a little research, but not a lot. God knows, Islamic theology (like most theology) is not something with which one should trifle.

  2. Luttvak’s thesis is totally bizarre, a deliberate attempt to create a stir where there isnt one. There must be hundreds or thousands of Muslims who have abandoned their religion. and there is no one “Islam” to enforce any edict against them.

    Obama has become some kind of sex symbol, like Marilyn Monroe — only androgynous, like Bobby Kennedy — and such figures inspire all kinds of attraction/repulsion responses in American culture. Hence the fantasy of an Obama assasination. It’s too kinky to think about!

    The more interesting subject is whether Obama would be any different as President than Hillary, or even McCain. Most on the left think no, but Zbignieu Brzezinski, one of his foreign policy advisors, has a commentary in the May 27 Washington Post, which makes me think otherwise.

  3. Obama appears to be the least poor choice. The powers that moved him so suddenly into the spotlight, his advisers and his financiers cast some doubts, but mostly because I didn’t care to learn much about it.
    Fabius Maximus replies: I agree. At least he is not as likely as McCain, imo, to start an avoidable war.

  4. Anthony J. Alfidi

    Here we go again, citing a bunch of Anglo-West academics, remote from the dust and squalor of the Arab street, for right-minded opinions on the thought processes of the incomprehensible Other.

    Juan Cole states, “But to characterize these minority traditions or idiosyncratic views as representative of Islam as a whole would be like declaring Pat Robertson’s interpretation of Christianity more legitimate than that of Saint Thomas Aquinas.” Pat Robertson reaches millions of Americans each day, while Aquinas’ opinions might be known only to a few thousand super-literate graduates of Catholic universities (I’m one, Notre Dame ’95). Who do we really think is more influential?! Come on!

    Clark Hoyt states, “I interviewed five Islamic scholars, at five American universities, recommended by a variety of sources as experts in the field.” A more relevant sample would be a group of semi-literate graduates of Pakistani madrassas, or a dozen imams in Tehran or Karachi. Their fatwas, and not the considered opionions of American Arabists, will guide the opinions of the unwashed Arab street. Salman Rushdie’s reward for “The Satanic Verses” was a death sentence twenty years ago.

    Hoyt and Cole ascribe more rationality to the Arab street than is warranted. Luttwak succeeded in looking at an American through the eyes of an Islamic commoner.
    Fabius Maximus replies: And how do you know that Luttwak speaks for the eyes of “an Islamic commoner.” Survey data, which he neglected to mentino. Fantasy? Can he read minds? Does he lead a double life as a street cleaner in Cairo?

    And what is an “Islamic commoner.” A native of Indonesia? Turkey? There is zero basis to view Islam as a unitary entity. That alone is sufficient imo to discredit his essay.

  5. Good point, Alfidi! However, I think this suggestion of Luttvak’s is a coded way of saying something else. The key word here is “apostate”, and that is a word known to Christians fundamentalists. An apostate is one who challenges the official order of things, a traitor, even. Obama is challenging the unspoken official order of American life, a black man presuming to run for its highest political office. You can’t say this openly — that would be racism — but a word like apostate is almost as good, since that suggests something fundamentally wrong or creepy with the object of it.

    To bring up Obama’s Muslim background in any way is a red herring to begin with, a sly way of raising questions about his character. No one is doing anything comparable about the characters of McCain or HC, so I get the feeling that this comment is coming from a darker part of the political landscape. I used to like Luttvak, too, but I think he has been superceded as a military thinker by the group that Fabius hangs out with.
    Fabius Maximus replies: That’s a small group! Luttwak represents a large, powerful group. Only God — any God — can help us if they run Washington after November 2008.

  6. Hah, the Democrats again lose the ‘unlosable election’. Mccain will win comfortably. Clinton may have had a (slight) chance, but there would have been no differences in policy so it didn;t matter. But Obama is unelectable.

    Except, there is a chance, a very slight chance, that the tanking of the US economy might just tip enough people over to overcome their prejudices. Basically though sheer desperation (losing you job and house does that to you).

    But though the US economy is in free fall it probably won’t deteriorate enough by the time of the election.

    Now if the Democrats had any brains, they would organise Gore as Presidential candidate (with Obama as Vice Presidential candidate). Then they would achieve, arguably, the greatest Democratic victory since FDR. But, nah, they have no brains.

    I never bet, except on a sure thing (statisticians disease), but even I’d put a $100 on McCain.

  7. “I never bet, except on a sure thing (statisticians disease), but even I’d put a $100 on McCain.”

    This one is too close to put any money down. Not if you want to keep your money that is.
    Fabius Maximus replies: Agreed! Either of these guys could gaffe themselves to defeat. If not for the Trinity Church relationship (and the rumored Michelle Obama tape), I suspect Obama would easily win. Amazing that America cannot produce better candidates.

  8. why use an in front of Muslim (an Muslim) why not A muslum?
    Fabius Maximus replies: Thanks! Fixed. No grammer checker in WordPress. WP’s bare-bones spell-checker does not do the title. And my proof-reading skills are almost zero.

  9. Brigitte Gabriel, a Christian who was born in Lebanon while it was primarily a Christian nation, can tell you why and how a person who is born of a Muslim father is considered a Muslim and remains a Muslim for the rest of his life. She can also tell you why Muslims believe it is acceptable to lie (i.e., pretend to be a Christian, Jew, etc.) if the end is to further the spread of Islam. Barack’s Obama’s slip of the tongue referring to “my Muslim faith” may be evidence of his true religious leanings. FWIW, I don’t consider Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright, who committed blasphemy in the pulpit by saying, “God damn America!” to be a real Christian, either.
    Fabius Maximus replies: In a logical language the following statement could not be expressed.

    “can tell you why and how a person who is born of a Muslim father is considered a Muslim and remains a Muslim for the rest of his life.”

    Considered by whom? God? Arab Shiites? Sunni leaders in Africa or Indonesia?

    This is discussed in “President Obama, a Muslim apostate?

    “She can also tell you why Muslims believe it is acceptable to lie”

    Every Muslim? Has she conducted a poll? Perhaps she is referring to specific doctrines in some (probably not all) schools of Muslim thought. Asserting that Muslims are a unitary organism is so absurd.

    “I don’t consider Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright, who committed blasphemy in the pulpit by saying, “God damn America!” to be a real Christian, either.”

    I have a passing acquaintance with Christian theological history. While many sects within Christianty have asserted that they (either their leaders, or the collective body) can determine who is a “real Christian”, there seems to be little (not zero) Scriptural basis for this belief.

  10. Why would you invite a fox to explain who ate the chicken. What would you expect a muslim to say.
    You haven’t a clue. Google Murtad Fitri (Natural Apostate) and do your own research or go to my website and buy The Apostate Theory.

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