The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) has pointed to, and questioned, President Barack Obamas inaccuracies regarding the size and significance of Muslims within the context of American society and even history in general in various statements and utterances since he assumed office. He has, not once, but on several occasions, accorded a privileged place to Muslims when describing America, a country founded on Judeo-Christian values and heritage.
In his Inaugural Address on January 20, 2009, President Obama said, We Are A Nation Of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus and non believers.
Again, in an interview on the Saudi-owned Al Arabiya TV on January 26, he referred to America as a country of Muslims, Jews, Christians, non-believers. In these two instances, President Obama placed Muslims ahead of Jews and, in the second, ahead of Christians as well.
Yet, throughout its history, the United States has always been known as a nation based on Judeo-Christian values and heritage. Thus, the norm has been to speak of this nation as primarily one of Christians and Jews, the two religious civilizations from which America has drawn most of its inspiration and which are the two larger religious blocs in the country. (It was typical, for example, for former President George W. Bush to state in his 2001 Inauguration Speech, Church and charity, synagogue and mosque, lend our communities their humanity, and they will have an honored place in our plans and laws. This sort of sentence reflected the general understanding of Americas self-identity and the fact that there are more Jews and synagogues in America than Muslims and mosques, for which reason Jews are mentioned ahead of Muslims).
President Obamas placement of Muslims ahead of Jews is also statistically odd. Surveys show that there are some 5-7 million Jews living in the United States more than the 1.3-2.8 million Muslims living in the United States estimated by reputable surveys (see below).
In his Cairo speech on June 4, President Obama inaccurately referred to nearly seven million American Muslims in our country today. He further inflated the Muslim presence in America by stating on French television, If you actually took the number of Muslim Americans, wed be one of the largest Muslim countries in the world.
These claims are astonishing and groundless. The figure of 7 million is a three-fold plus exaggeration of the actual number of American Muslims. Inflated figures like these are usually cited only by Islamist organizations like the Council on American Islamic relations (CAIR) and the Muslim Society of North America (ISNA). In contrast, the 2007 Pew Research Center study estimates a U.S. Muslim population of 0.6 percent, resulting in a figure of approximately 1.8 million American Muslims, while a 2008 American Religious Identification Survey, puts the figure even lower, at 1, 349,000.
If there are 1.8 million Muslims in America, then there are 41 countries in the world with larger Muslim populations. Moreover, even if one accepted the inflated figure of 7 million American Muslims, this would still be far from making America one of the worlds largest Muslim countries: of the worlds 48 Muslim-majority states, 25 of these have larger Muslim populations. By not stretch of the imagination can America be described honestly as one of the largest Muslim countries in the world.
In an interview on the Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya TV on January 26, President Obama said that My job is to communicate to the American people that the Muslim world is filled with extraordinary people who simply want to live their lives and see their children live better lives. This is not a claim that he has made in respect of any other minority group within America. Another example of President Obama seeking to promote Islam in America came in his Cairo speech, where he said that, in the United States, rules on charitable giving have made it harder for Muslims to fulfill their religious obligation. That is why I am committed to working with American Muslims to ensure that they can fulfill zakat [zakat refers to the Muslim obligation to give a portion of income to certain charities]. It is hard to know in which way President Obama intends to help Muslims but, again, this offer to facilitate observance of Islam is not something he has extended to any other religious group: he has not offered it to Mormons, or Jews. In America, Muslims can and do contribute to many Muslim charities and the only ones that have been shut down are those found to be subsidizing Islamist terrorism.
This inflation of Muslim numbers and significance to Americas evolution is also accompanied by a diminishing of Christians and Jews. The instances of referring to Muslims ahead of Jews and on one occasion, ahead of Christians as well, has been noted. President Obama was doing this even before he ran for office. In a 2007 speech, he declared that, Whatever we once were, were no longer a Christian nation. He repeated again that America is not a Christian nation a few weeks later. As President, at a press conference before delivering a major speech in Turkey, he stated that [O]ne 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 However, President Obama regards the secular Turkish republic as a Muslim country and chose its capital when decided to give a speech in a Muslim capital. The secular American republic is overwhelmingly Christian (79 percent) while the secular Turkish republic is overwhelmingly Muslim (99 percent). Why, then, is Turkey Muslim but America not Christian?
Additionally, President Obama has indulged in apologetics investing Islam with greater influence on civilization than the historical record warrants. In his Cairo speech, he said, I also know civilizations debt to Islam. It was Islam at places like Al-Azhar University that carried the light of learning through so many centuries, paving the way for Europes Renaissance and Enlightenment. It was innovation in Muslim communities that developed the order of algebra; our magnetic compass and tools of navigation; our mastery of pens and printing; our understanding of how disease spreads and how it can be healed. Islamic culture has given us majestic arches and soaring spires; timeless poetry and cherished music; elegant calligraphy and places of peaceful contemplation. And throughout history, Islam has demonstrated through words and deeds the possibilities of religious tolerance and racial equality.
Much of this is simply incorrect. Arabic numerals were developed in pre-Islamic India, the astrolabe was developed before the rise of Islam; Christian scholars first preserved in Arabic classical Greek texts, not Muslim scholars; the first Arabic-language medical treatise was written by a Christian priest and translated into Arabic by a Jewish doctor in 683, and so on. Moreover, while he credited Al-Azhar University with making great contributions to the world, he did not note that its Grand Sheikh, Muhammad Tantawi, stated in 2003 regarding the Palestinians that suicide bombing is not contrary to Islamic law if performed in defense of a homeland. Tantawi has also made anti-Semitic statements about the evil and degenerate nature of Jews, making exceptions only for those Jews who convert to Islam. None of this induced President Obama to decline Al-Azhars sponsorship of the speech. Instead, he named the institution for its contributions to civilization.
ZOA National President Morton A. Klein said, We view with concern and misgivings what appears to be a calculated talking down by President Obama of the Judeo-Christian origins, nature and population composition of the American Republic, while Muslim influence and numbers is groundlessly exaggerated. There seems an effort is being made to invest Muslims with outsized significance in American society, perhaps as a prelude to placing further distance between Israel and the United States than the President has already done by ignoring Palestinian non-fulfillment of their signed obligations to end terrorism and the incitement to hatred and murder that feeds it, while demanding that Jews stop building and developing their communities in Judea, Samaria and eastern Jerusalem.
It is incumbent on all Jewish organizations, and all Jewish and non-Jewish supporters of Israel, to communicate their concern at this creeping marginalization of Jews and the Judeo-Christian character of the United States and the simultaneous inflation of Muslims numbers and significance by the President. We need to tell the President that it is unacceptable and wrong to rewrite history and that there are better means of appealing to potential Muslim friends and allies none of whom will have been reassured by President Obama failure in Cairo to even speak of tougher sanctions against Iran if it continues pursuing nuclear weapons.