A widely viewed video seems to show President Obama stating that he is a Muslim. It is false, and the product of dishonest editing.
Although it is titled "Obama Admits He Is A Muslim," the president in fact has admitted no such thing. The video edits and twists his actual words, sometimes turning what were denials into false confessions. For example, it edits out the words "I’m a Christian" from one quote and "my Christian faith" from another. It shows him quoting from the Quran, but snips out his quotes from the Bible and the Talmud.
Although the video gives no citations and no dates, we have tracked down the full quotes from the various appearances. In the Analysis section that follows, we take the video section by section, comparing the edited quotes and graphics with the full reality of what Obama actually said.
We doubt many will take this nasty bit of misrepresentation seriously. Nevertheless, it provides an interesting case study of malicious editing.
We’ve received many queries about this video, which has amassed more than 1 million views since it was posted Aug. 7. It is titled "Obama Admits He Is A Muslim" and is just over nine-and-a-half minutes long. It blends edited snippets of Obama’s own words from various appearances as a candidate and as president, with on-screen graphics giving the editorial opinions of the video’s creator.
"Obama’s Muslim Roots"
The first section opens with a portion of the address the president gave April 6, 2009, to the Turkish Parliament in Ankara.
Edited quote: Many other Americans have Muslims in their families or have lived in a Muslim-majority country — I know, because I am one of them.
Full quote: The United States has been enriched by Muslim Americans. Many other Americans have Muslims in their families or have lived in a Muslim-majority country — I know, because I am one of them.
When Obama says "I am one of them," he was speaking not of Muslims but of "other" Americans. He was making a distinction between Muslim Americans and non-Muslims who either have Muslim relatives or have lived in a country (such as Turkey) where the population is predominately Muslim.
The video next shows a snippet of a speech Obama gave June 4 at Cairo University in Egypt.
Edited quote: My father came from a Kenyan family that includes generations of Muslims. As a boy, I spent several years in Indonesia and heard the call of the azaan [call to prayer] at the break of dawn and at the fall of dusk.
Full quote: I’m a Christian, but my father came from a Kenyan family that includes generations of Muslims. As a boy, I spent several years in Indonesia and heard the call of the azaan at the break of dawn and at the fall of dusk.
Far from admitting he’s a Muslim, Obama says "I’m a Christian." But the video’s creator leaves that on the cutting room floor.
The video continues with a later selection from the Cairo speech:
Edited quote: So I have known Islam on three continents before coming to the region where it was first revealed. That experience guides my conviction
Full quote: So I have known Islam on three continents before coming to the region where it was first revealed. That experience guides my conviction that partnership between America and Islam must be based on what Islam is, not what it isn’t.
The edited version invites the viewer to think that Obama was saying that his own religious "conviction" is based on personal experiences in Islamic countries. But the full quote shows Obama was talking about a different sort of conviction: his belief that Americans shouldn’t be guided by false notions about the Muslim faith.
The video then gives a truncated version of an exchange between Obama and ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos from Sept. 7, 2008:
Edited Quote — Obama: You’re absolutely right that John McCain has not talked about my Muslim faith
Full Quote — Obama: You’re absolutely right that John McCain has not talked about my Muslim faith and you’re absolutely right that that has not …
Stephanopoulos (interrupting): Your Christian faith.
Obama: My Christian faith. Well, what I’m saying …
Stephanopoulos (interrupting): Connections, right.
Obama (continuing) is that he hasn’t suggested that I’m a Muslim, and I think that his campaign upper echelons have not either. What I think is fair to say is that coming out of the Republican camp, there have been efforts to suggest that perhaps I’m not what who I say I am when it comes to my faith, something which I find deeply offensive, and that has been going on for a pretty long time.
The reference to "my Muslim faith" was widely described at the time as a gaffe. The Washington Times reported it as a "slip of the tongue." By leaving out the words "my Christian faith," the video dishonestly attempts to reverse the meaning of what Obama was saying.
This section of the video closes with an on-screen graphic that slightly mangles a New York Times article from March 6, 2007, by columnist Nicholas Kristof.
Video: In a 2007 interview with the New York Times, Obama recited the Muslim call to prayer in a perfect Arabic accent, and then went on to say that the Muslim call to prayer was "the prettiest sound on earth."
Actual NYT passage: Mr. Obama recalled the opening lines of the Arabic call to prayer, reciting them with a first-rate accent. In a remark that seemed delightfully uncalculated (it’ll give Alabama voters heart attacks), Mr. Obama described the call to prayer as “one of the prettiest sounds on Earth at sunset."
The video exaggerates. Kristof actually described Obama’s accent as "first rate" but not "perfect." And Obama said the call to prayer is "one of" the prettiest sounds, not the prettiest of all. These distortions are minor, but still part of a systematic misrepresentation of the record.
"Obama Quotes from the Koran"
The second section, called "Obama quotes from the Koran," shows Obama quoting from Islam’s holy book during his Cairo speech. What is not apparent from the edited version is that the president was telling his mostly Muslim audience that terrorists violate moral principles taught by the Quran. The video also edits out Obama’s references to the Bible and the Talmud as it strains to make the case that he’s a Muslim.
Edited quote: As the holy Quran tells us … The holy Quran teaches that … the holy Quran tells us … and the holy Quran also says . .
Obama: As the holy Quran tells us, "Be conscious of God and speak always the truth." That is what I will try to do today — to speak the truth as best I can, humbled by the task before us, and firm in my belief that the interests we share as human beings are far more powerful than the forces that drive us apart.
Obama: Indeed, none of us should tolerate these extremists. They have killed in many countries. They have killed people of different faiths — but more than any other, they have killed Muslims. Their actions are irreconcilable with the rights of human beings, the progress of nations, and with Islam. The Holy Koran teaches that whoever kills an innocent is as — it is as if he has killed all mankind. And the Holy Koran also says whoever saves a person, it is as if he has saved all mankind.
Obama: We have the power to make the world we seek, but only if we have the courage to make a new beginning, keeping in mind what has been written.
The holy Quran tells us, "O mankind! We have created you male and a female; and we have made you into nations and tribes so that you may know one another."
The Talmud tells us: "The whole of the Torah is for the purpose of promoting peace."
The holy Bible tells us, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God."
"Obama Praises and Glorifies Islam"
This section begins with a passage that is accurate enough, but does not make clear that Obama was addressing leaders of a predominately Muslim ally, Turkey. It is from his April 6 address to the Turkish Parliament.
Obama: We will convey our deep appreciation for the Islamic faith, which has done so much over the centuries to shape the world.
That is followed by excerpts from a March 19 video address the White House released on the Internet, in which Obama praised the "culture" of Iran and called it a "great civilization." What’s edited out is that Obama was speaking on Nowruz, the traditional first day of the year on the Persian calendar. Nowruz originated in the Zoroastrian religion and had been celebrated for more than a century before Islam arrived in what is now Iran. Although Obama referred to the "Islamic Republic of Iran" — the present-day official name of the country — he was offering no praise or glorification of the Islamic religion, but rather praising the more ancient Persian culture of Iran.
Edited quote: I would like to speak directly to the people and leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran … your great and celebrated culture. Over many centuries your art, your music, literature and innovation have made the world a better and more beautiful place. … We know that you are a great civilization, and your accomplishments have earned the respect of the United States and the world.
Full quote: Today I want to extend my very best wishes to all who are celebrating Nowruz around the world. This holiday is both an ancient ritual and a moment of renewal, and I hope that you enjoy this special time of year with friends and family.
In particular, I would like to speak directly to the people and leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Nowruz is just one part of your great and celebrated culture. Over many centuries your art, your music, literature and innovation have made the world a better and more beautiful place. Here in the United States our own communities have been enhanced by the contributions of Iranian Americans. We know that you are a great civilization, and your accomplishments have earned the respect of the United States and the world.
"Obama Defends Islam"
This whole section relies on excerpts of the Cairo speech. In none of them does Obama say he himself is a Muslim. This quote leaves out some context:
Edited quote: For instance, in the United States, rules on charitable giving have made it harder for Muslims to fulfill their religious obligation. That’s why I’m committed to working with American Muslims to ensure that they can fulfill zakat. … It is important for Western countries to avoid impeding Muslim citizens from practicing religion as they see fit.
Obama was defending freedom of religion — not Islam as such. At one point he said Western countries shouldn’t dictate what clothes a Muslim woman should wear, for example. The video continues:
Edited quote: And I consider it part of my responsibility as president of the United States to fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear.
That’s fair enough. But Obama went on to attack Muslim stereotypes of the U.S. The video left that on the cutting room floor:
Omitted quote: But that same principle must apply to Muslim perceptions of America. (Applause.) Just as Muslims do not fit a crude stereotype, America is not the crude stereotype of a self-interested empire. The United States has been one of the greatest sources of progress that the world has ever known.
"Obama Declares America to be a Muslim Nation"
Obama is never shown saying the U.S. is "a Muslim nation." Instead, we see a clip from a June 28, 2007, keynote address at a "Call to Renewal" conference sponsored by the liberal Christian group Sojourners.
Edited quote: We are no longer a Christian nation.
Full Quote: Whatever we once were, we are no longer a Christian nation – at least, not just. We are also a Jewish nation, a Muslim nation, a Buddhist nation, and a Hindu nation, and a nation of nonbelievers.
Obama was saying the U.S. is a nation of many faiths, but by dropping the word "just," the edited version changes the quote’s meaning. That is followed by more misleading editing of a clip from an April 6, 2009, press conference in Turkey:
Edited quote: We do not consider ourselves a Christian nation.
Full quote: And I’ve said before that one of the great strengths of the United States is — although as I mentioned, we have a very large Christian population, we do not consider ourselves a Christian nation or a Jewish nation or a Muslim nation; we consider ourselves a nation of citizens who are bound by ideals and a set of values.
The video then shows three excerpts from the Cairo address and one from the Turkish Parliament speech in which he described the impact Muslims and Islam have made on the U.S.
Obama (in Turkey): The United States has been enriched by Muslim Americans.
Obama (In Cairo): Since our founding, American Muslims have enriched the United States. … Islam has always been a part of America’s story. … There is a mosque in every state in our union, and over 1,200 mosques within our borders.
All that is accurate enough, but all it amounts to is paying respect to the religion of others. Obama wasn’t embracing Islam as his own faith.
The video then shows a clip from an interview Obama gave June 1, 2009, with a French TV station:
Obama: One of the points I want to make is, if you actually took the number of Muslim Americans, we’d be one of the largest Muslim countries in the world.
Here, it is the president who is wrong — as we reported a couple of days after the interview. The U.S. does have perhaps 2 million Muslims who attend mosques, and the total Muslim population of the U.S. has been estimated at 6 million or 7 million. But that’s tiny compared with countries such as Indonesia or Pakistan. We concluded that the U.S. probably doesn’t even rank among the top 50 in terms of its Muslim population.
The section then ends by repeating the quote from Cairo where Obama said, "Let there be no doubt, Islam is a part of America."
The next section has no Obama quotes. It features Fox News pundits criticizing the president for a brief "bow" to Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud during a visit in London April 1, 2009. The following section shows an old photo of Obama wearing African garb, which the video describes as "Traditional Muslim Dress," during a visit to family members in Kenya as a young man. (The photo is being held up by his half-brother Malik Obama.)
"Obama Visits A Mosque"
In a section called "Obama Visits A Mosque" he is pictured touring the famed Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey. The structure actually isn’t a mosque any more: It was converted to a museum in 1935. This favorite tourist destination was originally built as a Christian church by a Byzantine emperor, then converted to a mosque after Istanbul fell to the Ottoman Turks in 1453.
Another section is called "Obama Sides With Islam," but it’s just TV reports from 2008 of Obama’s brief refusal to wear an American flag pin in his lapel. How that equates to siding with Islam is not explained, but in any case Obama reversed that decision early in his presidential campaign and routinely wore a flag pin through the remainder of his campaign.
That section concludes with another edited quote, this one from Obama’s June 4 speech in Cairo:
Edited Quote: [L]et me speak as clearly and as plainly as I can. … America is not — and never will be — at war with Islam.
Full Quote: [L]et me speak as clearly and as plainly as I can about some specific issues that I believe we must finally confront together. The first issue that we have to confront is violent extremism in all of its forms. In Ankara, I made clear that America is not — and never will be — at war with Islam. (Applause.) We will, however, relentlessly confront violent extremists who pose a grave threat to our security — because we reject the same thing that people of all faiths reject: the killing of innocent men, women, and children. And it is my first duty as president to protect the American people.
What the video’s creator cuts out is Obama’s denouncing "violent extremists" before his mostly Muslim audience.
"One of them?"
The video concludes with footage of a hijacked jetliner striking the World Trade Center’s South Tower on Sept. 11, 2001, followed by a graphic with the words "I am one of them" attributed to "Barack Hussein Obama." But as we noted at the outset, when the president said "I am one of them" to the Turkish Parliament in April, he was referring to Americans with Muslim relatives, not to terrorists.
At the very end, Obama is shown saying "Thank You, and Eid-eh Shoma Mobarak." Although that may have sounded to the video’s creator like some sinister utterance in Arabic, Obama was actually speaking Farsi. And he was saying "Happy New Year to you" at the end of his taped TV remarks to the Iranian people on Nowruz.
– by Justin Bank and Brooks Jackson
White House. "Remarks By President Obama To The Turkish Parliament." 6 Apr 2009.
White House. "Remarks By the President at Cairo University." 4 Jun 2009.
Bellatoni, Christina. "Obama’s verbal slip fuels his critics." Washington Times. 7 Set 2008.
Kristof, Nicholas, "Obama: Man of the World." New York Times. 6 Mar 2007.
Djang, Jason, "A New Year, A New Beginning," The White House Blog. 19 Mar 2009.
Jafarey, Ali A, "NowRuz – The Zarathustrian New Year," www.zoroastrian.org. Accessed 4 Dec 2009.
Obama, Barack, "Keynote Address – A Call to Renewal." 28 Jun 2007.
White House, "Press Conference," 6 Apr 2009.
White House, "Interview of the President by Laura Haim, Canal Plus." Jun 1 2009.