Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Barack Obama's Muslim Heritage: How Deep Does It Go?

Barack Obama's father was a Muslim. No one denies that. So how deep does his Muslim heritage run? I haven't heard much discussion of that issue. And I was surprised when I looked into the question myself, because the answer is that Obama's Muslim heritage doesn't climb very far up his family tree.

MeBarack Hussein Obama, Sr. (1936–1982) was Senator Obama's biological father. He was born and he died a Muslim. Did he have much input into Senator Obama's life? Not really. He left when Senator Obama was two years old. The senator saw his father once in his life after that, at age 10. And since the Senator's father was already married in Kenya before 1961 and kept this a secret from Senator Obama's mother, Ann Dunham, the short marriage was probably illegal.

Senator Obama's grandfather (Barack Hussein Obama, Sr.'s father) was Onyango Obama (1895-1979). Onyango was born a Christian, worked for Christian missionaries for a while, and converted to Islam during World War I while in exile in Zanzibar (a Muslim area of Tanzania). Onyango's third wife, Sarah Obama, raised the senator's father, Barack Obama Sr. She is still alive, professes to be a Christian, and Senator Obama calls her "Granny Sarah." (Senator Obama's actual grandmother, named Akumu, separated from Onyango Obama shortly after the birth of the Senator's father.)

Barack Obama Sr. (1936–1982), the father who left him so early in life, seems to be the only male in the Senator's family tree who was born and died a Muslim. The senator was raised by a white woman from Kansas (Ann Dunham, a confirmed agnostic) and by his Christian grandparent. As a family heritage goes, that's not a very Islamic one...

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