Barack Obama is not a Muslim, but a recent survey found that about 10 percent of Americans believe he is. That perception has been fueled by a campaign of rumors and innuendo. It’s a campaign that has caused pain in many Muslim communities, including one in Pennsylvania, which holds a key presidential primary Tuesday.

Obama had a Muslim stepfather. As a child, he learned about Islam and sometimes went to mosque. Nevertheless, he’s a devout Christian.

But his middle name, Hussein, has been used by opponents to imply that he’s a Muslim. . .

The trickle-down effect of such messages over radio, TV, the Internet and e-mail can be felt in West Philadelphia, in the city’s Muslim community.

‘No Shame to Be a Muslim’

“We felt sad,” says Abdul Musaitif, who runs a Muslim pizzeria in Germantown. “It’s no shame to be a Muslim.”

Musaitif, a Palestinian from Ramallah, is now a naturalized U.S. citizen. He decries the idea that a reference to Obama being a Muslim could be seen as an accusation. But he says this is just the latest piece of negativity he has witnessed.

He adds: “They say this is a [democratic] country.”

Musaitif also owns the butcher shop next door. His employees are all Muslim, and all the meat he serves, including pizzas, burgers and bacon, are halal — pork-free and Islam sanctioned. Despite everything though, Musaitif says he still feels very American.

“I’ve been here 24 years; my kids [were] born here,” he says. “Everything I own is here.”

Standing beside him is Khalil Abdul Jabbar. An African-American convert, he now wears the sort of garb — a long black tunic, prayer cap and unkempt beard — that singles him out as a devout Muslim. He says he’s not surprised that labeling Obama a Muslim is considered a smear. (MORE)


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