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Barack Obama – Muslim apostate?

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

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That's why Obama is bin Laden's dream candidate.

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Once branded as an apostate, President Obama would face enormous difficulties in the foreign policy realm, especially in the fight against terrorism.

He's caught between a rock and a hard place. If he softens the US strategy against Al Qaeda and its ideologues, his apostasy might be an afterthought for Al Qaeda. But if he acts firmly in America's national interest to defeat the terrorist threat, he'd be vilified in an Al Qaeda propaganda campaign for reneging on his "true identity."

Furthermore, his administration would struggle to positively engage the Muslim world, where Islam isn't just a religion, it's the way of life. Conservative Muslim populations that are riddled with poverty and low literacy rates can be more readily swayed to join the cause against the "Great Satan" (the US) if their imams and mullahs shout that it is led by an apostate.

Diplomacy is highly personal. The leaders of America's Middle Eastern allies – such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Qatar – already feel besieged by jihadists and disgruntled citizens who see their governments as toadies of the West. The murtad card could intensify that pressure, so leaders of these countries might be compelled to distance themselves from Washington.

In short, an Obama presidency – which might be fine domestically – could have serious repercussions for US foreign interests at a time when it is especially vulnerable in a tight global oil market.

So far, Al Qaeda has been conspicuously quiet on Obama's candidacy. But that should not come as a surprise. Hoping Obama gets elected, they're probably waiting until he's taken the oath of office to begin branding him a traitor to the faith of his fathers.

Islamic terrorists know that the long road to success lies in stoking the "clash of civilizations." To reach their goal of restoring the Caliphate in a form that fits their worldview, they need massive numbers of Muslims to join their global jihad.

Bin Laden and his followers have already shown their willingness to exploit real or imagined religious schisms to expand their support base. So it's not hard to imagine bin Laden praying that Obama wins this November.

Shireen K. Burki is an adjunct professor of political science at the University of Mary Washington, in Fredericksburg, Va. The daughter of a Muslim father and a Christian mother, she spent her childhood in Islamabad, Pakistan, where she studied Islam at school.