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Opinion

Barack Obama – Muslim apostate?

For Al Qaeda, the answer – and the implication – is clear.

By Shireen K. Burki / May 19, 2008



Stafford, Va.

Osama bin Laden must be chuckling in his safe house. After all, the 2008 campaign could very well give Al Qaeda the ultimate propaganda tool: President Barack Hussein Obama, Muslim apostate.

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The fact that Senator Obama – the son of a Muslim father – insists he was never a Muslim before becoming Christian is irrelevant to bin Laden. In bin Laden's eyes, Obama is a murtad fitri, the worst type of apostate, because he was blessed by Allah to be born into the true faith of Islam.

There are two types of apostates according to sharia (Islamic law) and the Hadith (sayings of the prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him).

The first type is murtad milli, one who converted to Islam and later renounced the faith. The second, and most egregious, type is murtad fitri. It refers to a person born of a Muslim father who renounces his birthright. Two recent examples of the latter are Magdi Allam (a male Egyptian who converted to Catholicism in Italy) and Ayaan Hirsi Ali (Somali-born woman who's now an atheist). Both now face death threats.

According to Islamic jurisprudence, children of a Muslim father – even an apparently nonpracticing one, such as Obama's father, and irrespective of the mother's faith – are automatically Muslims. Most Muslims around the world agree: A child of a Muslim father is a Muslim. Period.

Should Obama become US commander in chief, there is a strong likelihood that Al Qaeda's media arm, As-Sahab, will exploit his background to argue that an apostate is leading the global war on terror (read: attacks against fellow Muslims). This perception would be leveraged to galvanize sympathizers into action.

Remember: Al Qaeda's ultimate goal is to restore the caliphate (the Islamic form of government that would preside over the community of believers) and expand Dar al Islam ("Abode of Islam"). Reaching it requires a long war against all – Muslim and non-Muslim – who don't share its extremist Wahhabi worldview.

Al Qaeda, though, has struggled recently to recruit volunteers for this jihad. While bin Laden retains significant support as someone willing to stand up for Muslim concerns, most Muslims abhor Al Qaeda's terrorist methods whose primary targets are innocent noncombatants.

But an apostate as head of the United States could change this equation. It would be a propaganda boost for Al Qaeda's mission. All one has to do is read Al Qaeda's public statements to recognize how frequently it makes baseless apostasy accusations against fellow Muslims who challenge its message or actions.

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