By Barry Rubin

The idea that President Barack Obama is secretly a Muslim is ridiculous. (And don’t write me disagreeing because there’s no proof.)

BUT this red herring has blocked a serious discussion of what is Obama’s attitude toward Islam. As so often happens regarding the Middle East and Islam, people spend their time and passions focusing on the wrong issue.

I think two points can be made reasonably:

  • Based on his youthful experience, Obama thinks he is a great expert on Islam. He isn’t. And the Islam he came in contact with at the time (in Indonesia mainly) was quite different from what he has to deal with in the Middle East today. Particularly, he genuinely does not seem to comprehend revolutionary Islamism. And since that’s the main international threat in the world today his failure creates a gigantic problem for the future of what used to be called the Free World.
  • Obama has a strong sympathy and empathy for Muslims. In theory, that’s just fine but it has led to a policy of trying to win the love of the Muslim-majority world rather than to develop strategies that work and protect U.S. interests. Another theme that emerges from this is his relentless mirror-imaging in which Egypt’s revolution becomes equivalent to Rosa Parks protesting against segregation on buses in the Southern United States and the quest for democratic liberty by America’s Founding Fathers.

So Obama’s “Islamophilia” makes him have a huge “Muslim problem.” The problem is not that he “likes” Muslims but that he doesn’t distinguish among them. It’s the difference between loving Russia, its people and its culture a generation ago, and not understanding the problem of Communism. 

By believing that the only problems are: a tiny group of evil people (al-Qaida) and mistakes made by U.S. policy, Obama is missing the biggest political development in the world today. 

It’s like saying after the Russian Revolution that the real problem is a small group of anarchists who want to hijack Bolshevism, but that if the United States is only nice enough to the Communists, shows them that America isn’t their enemy, and helps them get rid of a few extremists everything will be great.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center, editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal, and a featured columnist at PajamasMedia His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). The website of the GLORIA Center is His PajamaMedia columns are mirrored and other articles available at

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