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Obamarama, Part 2 - Debunked

Monday, Jan 22, 2007

The crackpots who pushed this goofy rumor ought to be ashamed of themselves, but I’m not holding my breath.

Allegations that Sen. Barack Obama was educated in a radical Muslim school known as a “madrassa” are not accurate, according to CNN reporting.

Insight Magazine, which is owned by the same company as The Washington Times, reported on its Web site last week that associates of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-New York, had unearthed information the Illinois Democrat and likely presidential candidate attended a Muslim religious school known for teaching the most fundamentalist form of Islam. […]

But reporting by CNN in Jakarta, Indonesia and Washington, D.C., shows the allegations that Obama attended a madrassa to be false. CNN dispatched Senior International Correspondent John Vause to Jakarta to investigate. […]

“I came here to Barack Obama’s elementary school in Jakarta looking for what some are calling an Islamic madrassa … like the ones that teach hate and violence in Pakistan and Afghanistan,” Vause said on the “Situation Room” Monday. “I’ve been to those madrassas in Pakistan … this school is nothing like that.”

Go read the whole thing and learn something.

It’s past time that people stopped fervently believing and passing along as gospel the absolute worst rumors about politicians they don’t like.

One other thing. Some people ought to be fired at Insight and Fox News for this disgusting atrocity.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Huh? - Monday, Jan 22, 07 @ 6:29 pm:

    So what if he might have been educated in a madrassa! How is an islamic religious education any different than any other religious education? Are people upset when when they meet people who were educated at Bob Jones University. Talk about a scary bunch.

    No, they are “ok” because BJU is an American school.

    Big deal. Grow up. Nobody was ever hurt by a religious education.

  2. - 47th Ward - Monday, Jan 22, 07 @ 6:51 pm:

    Thanks for posting this Rich,

    Some regular commenters here and at Illinoize have been especially aggressive and shameless with this stuff.

    I mean Bill Baar is particularly offensive, with Ruberry in close second. Baar wins on sheer volume.

  3. - So Blue Democrat - Monday, Jan 22, 07 @ 7:15 pm:


    You stated: “Nobody was ever hurt by a religious education.” Some of my former Catholic friends may not agree with you.

    Seriously, if it is correct that pals of Clinton are linked to these allegations, I say “shame on them.” The purpose of the allegations is to scare voters away from him.

  4. - 47th Ward - Monday, Jan 22, 07 @ 7:26 pm:

    No, Blue. Aren’t you paying attention?

    The purpose is to spread a two-fer: claim Hillary is smearing Barack and you smear them both. It’s in the Swift Boat Playbook by Roger Ailes. How Blue are you?

    PS: Didn’t President Bartlett graduate from Notre Dame? This isn’t close to the same as anti-Catholic bias politically, and I’m as Catholic as they come, friend.

  5. - wndycty - Monday, Jan 22, 07 @ 7:31 pm:

    Well add FOX NEWS aka FAUX NEWS to the list of those who should be ashamed. The best part is they put it off on Hillary’s campaign, even if that was the case they chose to put it out there:

  6. - So Blue Democrat - Monday, Jan 22, 07 @ 7:57 pm:

    47th Ward,

    I was just reporting that many of of my friends hated their Catholic education. Sorry if I offended you-but you need to get a life.

  7. - 47th Ward - Monday, Jan 22, 07 @ 8:14 pm:

    Sorry Blue,

    In my haste to defend Sen. Clinton, I misread your post and thought your friends were former Catholics. Or your former friends were Catholics, or something like that.

    It was an honest mistake and I wasn’t attacking you, just using your point to illustrate mine, which also wasn’t clear. Mea culpa. I’m not offended and didn’t mean to call you out.

  8. - Limerick - Monday, Jan 22, 07 @ 8:24 pm:

    The madrassa bit’s a canard.
    The media debunked it hard.
    While they are now antiseptic,
    They were hardly such skeptics
    About “records” of the National Guard.

  9. - OAD - Monday, Jan 22, 07 @ 8:33 pm:

    Defined: “In the Arabic language, the word (madrasa) implies no sense other than that which the word school represents in the English language, such as private, public or parochial school, as well as for any primary or secondary school whether Muslim, non-Muslim or secular.”

    (So technically we all went to a madrasa, at one point or another. Jsut like we all went to an ecole, or ein schule..)
    Obama apparently attended one that was actually referred to as a madrasa.

    Given the generally understood concept of what a madrasa is, Obama can’t be helped. Calling his school a madrasa and letting the listeners fill in the blank is politics, plain and simple. Unfair? yes. Cowardly? Of course. But despite protestations from the fact-checking classes, it’s going to stick in many of the electorate’s heads.

    ((hope this edit passes muster?! ))

  10. - Rich Miller - Monday, Jan 22, 07 @ 8:49 pm:

    OAD, you’re right about the word madrassa. In Arabic, the word just means “school.” Nothing more, nothing less.

    But you’re absolutely, completely wrong that this was simply about saying he attended a madrassa. There was a whole lot more to this nasty hit than that. I’d suggest you read the Insight “article” to get an idea of just how deep they went before you brush this dreck off as politics as usual.

  11. - OAD - Monday, Jan 22, 07 @ 9:43 pm:

    Deep hit, unfair, factually incorrect - sounds like usual full-contact politics to me! :) (Just ask Al Gore about his internet patent!.)

    You are right that Insight went too far - I was thinking in terms of how this will play to the passive listeners who overhear it and never go to the INsight story page.
    I only got so far into the piece before the repetition loop of the same sentence, restated differently started to get to me.

    This is some slick stuff:
    “Although Indonesia is regarded as a moderate Muslim state, the U.S. intelligence community has determined that today most of these schools are financed by the Saudi Arabian government and they teach a Wahhabi doctrine that denies the rights of non-Muslims. Although the background check has not confirmed that the specific Madrassa Mr. Obama attended was espousing Wahhabism….”

    Just enough hint of fact in there to lead you totally the wrong way.

  12. - FDR's Ghost - Monday, Jan 22, 07 @ 9:50 pm:


    You’re absolutely right in this: “It’s past time that people stopped fervently believing and passing along as gospel the absolute worst rumors about politicians they don’t like.”

    This isn’t just people passing along rumors. They are invented fictions meant to cause serious damage as part of an organized, coordinated right-wing smear effort. Truth is a foreign country to these guys. Unchecked, it’s a serious threat to the republic.

    It’s a refreshing change that CNN actually got to the bottom of it quickly. Thank you for bringing attention to it as well.

  13. - Carl Nyberg - Monday, Jan 22, 07 @ 10:31 pm:

    Rich, did you call for the people who facilitated the Iraq War lies to be fired?

    If you were willing to hold your tongue on the big lies to preserve your credentials as a “moderate” don’t hold your breath waiting for the Right Wing media to do the right thing over these relatively minor lies.

  14. - ANON - Monday, Jan 22, 07 @ 10:39 pm:

    Obama is fair game to all of this stuff. Unfortunate, but that is what Presidential elections have turned into.

    Let the media do its job. Certainly, some will try to knock him down while the vast majority will come to his defense. The majority of the media have not been very objective about Obama, as they have elevated him to the “rock star” status he enjoys today.

  15. - Rich Miller - Monday, Jan 22, 07 @ 10:40 pm:

    Carl, unlike yourself, I reported from Iraq. I didn’t hold my tongue about what I saw.

  16. - Cassandra - Monday, Jan 22, 07 @ 11:34 pm:

    Given the amount of energy (and money) our leaders are putting into the Middle East these days, you’d think we’d be a little more knowledgeable about Islamic culture and society.
    Were that the case, this rumor wouldn’t have gotten anywhere. Apparently, in the US, when
    you say “madrasa” people think Osama bin Laden.
    And after four years of “bringing democracy to the Middle East”, no less.

    I’d have to reserve judgment on who was responsible, though. The Clintons are big on far right conspiracies but they cut their political teeth in Arkansas, a rough, tough state politically. And they probably have their own
    far out supporters.

  17. - Howard - Tuesday, Jan 23, 07 @ 12:09 am:

    Obama is very close to the Jewish people and a big friend of Israel. He may have gone to a mainstream Muslim school in Indonesia, and that may not be great, but it is not a fundamentalist Madrasah. His stepfather may have been Muslim but Obama was raised Christian and is very secular. His grandmother may be Muslim and Baracka may be a partially Muslim name but there are Hispanics named Omar and they are Catholic.

    Obama’s best fundraisers were Jewish. He has been a strong supporter of Israel. His campaign advisors and staff had Jews. Obama is much closer to the Jewish communtiy than the Muslim community. To say that Obama is a radical Islamo-fasisct is absurd.

  18. - True Observer - Tuesday, Jan 23, 07 @ 1:10 am:

    How is islamic religious education different than any other religious education?

    Isn’t this the same as anti catholic bias?

    Concern with catholics was that they would take jobs and women and not be completly loyal to their country because of their dual loyalty to the church which has a governing state.

    With Islam the concern is that they will blow you up even if they kill themselves in the process.

    Cartoons and death. Rushdie’s book and death. Pope quotes an earlier pope and death.

    And there is wonder why people are irrational about their concern about moslems.

    Wonder if the huge crowds in europe and elsewhere who wanted death after the cartoons and the pope’s quote went to a madrassa or just regular muslim school.

    Yes, americans are going to make distictions about which kind of muslim schools people go to.

    In who’s dreams.

    Final thought - In his book Obama said he went to the muslim school first and then the catholic school. CNN says he went to the muslim school second.

    Hard to see how someone writing his autobiography addressed to the Hyde Park crowd, when he first ran for state senate in that area, would get this wrong.

  19. - Master of the Obvious - Tuesday, Jan 23, 07 @ 5:50 am:

    Uh Carl–I think you just you got served.

  20. - I can't believe we did it again - Tuesday, Jan 23, 07 @ 6:31 am:

    I read a neat article this weekend about the church that Obama attends (attended?) in Chicago. The pastor was one not afraid to speak the truth about aparthied and other social issues of concern to Christians. I wish I could tell you where I read it, because while I am not a democrat, I am a Christian and my respect for Obama grew. Missed the Fox news story and feel I am better off for not having subjected myself to their trash.

  21. - Bill Baar - Tuesday, Jan 23, 07 @ 7:00 am:

    My offense was pointing out Bush had has picture taken with a guy from the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq who came to the White House to thank the people of the United States.

    Obama was taking heat for attending a Madrassa.

    I thought that bizarre. It’s making a defense for something that requires no defense (we have a new Madrassa in Elgin, and I hope every kid there feels he or she can grow up to be Prez).

    What does require some defense and explaination are does Obama support the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution now; just as Bush does. And Obama owes us some talk about is apparant flip on Israel and Palastine. He was talking a different story in the 1990s then today. (Read Ali Abunimah)

    Islam is in the midst of upheaval and I think Americans owe it to Moderate Muslims to support them. I think anyone running for National office owes voters an explanation on their stands there.

    If you attended a Muslim school, I think your especially well positoned to help Americans understand. You can bet DoD is recuriting at these schools.

    I get the felling Obama supporters made a big deal of crying Islamaphopia about possible school attendance, when the real question for Obama is where does he stand now, today on these issues.

    This Madrassa thing really gives him a pass on the big issues. It’s a diversion. That’s what I’ve been hammering away it.

  22. - Bill Baar - Tuesday, Jan 23, 07 @ 7:07 am:

    The link for Elgin’s Madrassa. They do a nice job of explaining what they do. I was at the Elgin Planning Commission meeting where they got permission for their new Dorm.

    There must have been 500 people there angry about Elgin’s annexation of parts of Campton and Plato Townships.

    The only issue about the Madrassa was fire exits. Otherwise no one batted an eye over Madrassa’s in Elgin. And that’s as it should be.

  23. - Bill Baar - Tuesday, Jan 23, 07 @ 7:30 am:

    Final footnote, then I’m done. State’s press release: President Bush Meets with His Eminence Abdul-Aziz Al-Hakim including the pciture. I found al-Hakim’s words moving and I’m more inspired by him then Orwell’s cruel pacifists in so many of our Christian Churches.

  24. - Anonymous - Tuesday, Jan 23, 07 @ 7:31 am:

    I’ve noticed a large percentage of your readers are conservative and may not be as enamored with Obama as much as you are. You are whistling in the dark if you think CNN has any credibility. That is why their ratings are in the toliet. Everyone has an agenda and the CNN agenda is all to transparent.

  25. - Bridget Dooley - Tuesday, Jan 23, 07 @ 7:50 am:

    I agree, Rich, this was the worst kind of hit job there is. The worst part is the continual demonizing of Muslims. If Obama is smart (and he is) he would stand up and speak out about how ridiculously acceptable it has become for people to hate Muslims in this country. He can tie it right into his message of hope and a “different kind of politics”. Because he’s right.

    I have met teachers from the Islamic school in Elgin that Bill is talking about and they are lovely people. One of the Arabic teachers spoke at College of DuPage to promote understanding of Islamic beliefs regarding those cartoons of Muhammad that were so controversial. I thought it was an extremely responsible thing for him to take time to do.

  26. - Way Northsider - Tuesday, Jan 23, 07 @ 7:56 am:

    The biggest issue is why so called “journalists” would have published the original allegations in the first place without doing anything at all to whether or not there was any truth to them. This is sleaze pure and simple. It isn’t like it’s hard to find out the facts in this case but those who want to take a candidate down know that getting the lies out first and then “clarifying” them will do the job they want done. Now there will always be stories that Obama attended a radical Muslim school regardless of whether or not the story has been subsequently corrected. Shame on “journalists”.

  27. - archpundit - Tuesday, Jan 23, 07 @ 7:57 am:

    —OAD, you’re right about the word madrassa. In Arabic, the word just means “school.” Nothing more, nothing less.

    Rich–this isn’t quite right–it may even vary depending on the local usage, but generally a madrassa is a school teaching Islam. Some are the radical wahhabi based madrassas, but most are simply Islamic religious schools. Madrassas are distinct in Indonesia from public schools–the religion ministry takes care of madrassas, the education ministry takes care of public schools.

  28. - Bill Baar - Tuesday, Jan 23, 07 @ 7:58 am:

    Bridget re: If Obama is smart (and he is) he would stand up and speak out about how ridiculously acceptable it has become for people to hate Muslims in this country.

    How about Obama links Al-Hakim of SCIR to the folks at Trinity United Chruch of Christ to explain what the United States shares with Iraqis? That would really impress me.

    It’s President Bush shaking hands with al-Hakim the Islamic Revolutionary who’s polling numbers have tanked.

    It’s Obama the Christian saying don’t slur me for having added Islamic school with soaring popularity.

    Sorry, that’s just a contradiction I can’t get past. It really drives me nuts.

    sorry…this is my final comment here… I just hope I’m clear.

  29. - North of I-80 - Tuesday, Jan 23, 07 @ 8:44 am:

    I don’t understand Rich; did Obama attend an Islamic school [translated: madressa] or didn’t he? If he did, why should those that reported it be “fired for” reporting it? Many of us are more concerned with Obama’s unclear fuzzy current support for Islam or for Israel. A lot of us are more concerned with Obama’s voting record on taxes, total experience successfully running a business/ an office/ a company or a senate seat.

  30. - Rich Miller - Tuesday, Jan 23, 07 @ 9:18 am:

    Larry, my wife speaks fluent Arabic. I asked, how do you say “school” in Arabic? Her answer: Madrassa.

  31. - ArchPundit - Tuesday, Jan 23, 07 @ 9:32 am:

    Rich–I figured, and I wasn’t very clear–but the word in Indonesian for school is sekolah. Madrassa has a specific meaning there tied to a religious school as I understand it and a Pakistani friend claimed the same distinction. So my bad for not explaining myself, but the usage of the term madrassa in English is typically taken to be a religious school because if it was a typical school–we have a word for it–school. Taken into places that don’t speak Arabic, that’s also the usual connotation of the word.

    Think of it this way–what is the Spanish word for school? In English we simply translate escuela to school–but if there was something unique about the school, we might continue to use the Spanish word because it has distinct meaning.

    So, yes I’m incorrect in the sense of how Arabic speakers use it, but I think the point stands in discussing non-Arabic language usage of it.

    Wow, am I being pedantic.

  32. - ArchPundit - Tuesday, Jan 23, 07 @ 9:33 am:

    ===did Obama attend an Islamic school

    To make this perfectly clear, Obama attended a public school in Indonesia that is quite western in its view of education–it’s view of teaching religion is teaching comparative religion.

  33. - fedup dem - Tuesday, Jan 23, 07 @ 10:09 am:

    Rich, you are correct in saying those media bozos should be fired. After all, if anyone in the media wants to discredit Barack Obama, all they have to do is run the tape of his endorsement of Mayor Daley and couple it with the laundry list of the Daley administration’s numerous political and governemntal transgressions.

  34. - Left Leaner - Tuesday, Jan 23, 07 @ 10:19 am:

    Does anyone believe anything that Fox News says anymore?

  35. - Snidely Whiplash - Tuesday, Jan 23, 07 @ 10:53 am:

    Although admittedly I have no idea about the nature of the school, I believe the question should be what was the nature of the school WHEN OBAMA ATTENDED IT, not what its curriculum is NOW. I don’t call that a debunking, but neither is it proof that Obama attended a radical Islamic school.

    I think that Obama’s recent endorsement of King Daley, along with his endorsement of Todd Stroger and ties to Tony Reszko, are stronger knocks on this “outsider” who puts himself out as a “reformer.”

  36. - VanillaMan - Tuesday, Jan 23, 07 @ 11:03 am:

    Oh, enough already!

    We have another year before the first primary votes are taken, and it seem that everyone wants to outshout the others. Enough with the name calling!

    You can get whatever information you want from whatever source you want to get it from; Fox, MSNBC, NBC, CNN, and all the rest. We are all big kids and mostly college educated, so let’s not talk down at each other, OK? I can easily listen to either Countdown on MSNBC and Rush Limbaugh without becoming one or the other.

    NO ONE has a monopoly on the truth. Read both sides of every story before you attack others. Honestly, democracy works. Voters are not dummies.

  37. - So-Called "Austin Mayor" - Tuesday, Jan 23, 07 @ 11:22 am:

    Rich: “Some people ought to be fired at Insight and Fox News for this disgusting atrocity.”

    And Mark Steyn, the columnist that trumpeted this baseless, bigoted b.s. in the Sun-Times, should lose his spot too.

  38. - Bubs - Tuesday, Jan 23, 07 @ 11:54 am:

    Obama supporters had better grow a thicker skin. This madrassa thing is just for openers from the Clintons, who are the dirtiest players on the street.

  39. - ArchPundit - Tuesday, Jan 23, 07 @ 11:54 am:

    ===Although admittedly I have no idea about the nature of the school, I believe the question should be what was the nature of the school WHEN OBAMA ATTENDED IT, not what its curriculum is NOW. I don’t call that a debunking, but neither is it proof that Obama attended a radical Islamic school.

    And if you read and watch the CNN report a classmate said the curriculum was largely the same back then. Unless you are planning on enlisting Doctor Who, I think this story is debunked.

    Of course, the Wahhabi based radical madrassas that were suggested by the story weren’t even started outside of Saudi Arabia before the mid-1970s so the story was debunked before as well.

  40. - Rich Miller - Tuesday, Jan 23, 07 @ 11:57 am:

    What Archpundit said. Give it up, already.

  41. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Tuesday, Jan 23, 07 @ 1:40 pm:

    Wasn’t it Fox News that opened up both barrels and unloaded on Mike Wallace and 60 Minutes for misreporting on George W. Bush?

    The fact that Fox News is so terrified of Obama recommends him well as our Democratic nominee.

  42. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Tuesday, Jan 23, 07 @ 1:42 pm:

    Um….Vanillaman….broadcasting licenses are a privelege, not a right, and that privelege has some responsibilities attached. One is that “news reports” are supposed to be based in reality.

  43. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Tuesday, Jan 23, 07 @ 1:59 pm:

    fed-up dem….that’s some pretty bad campaign advice you’re giving the Clinton campaign.

    Daley remains very popular in Chicago and well-respected through-out Illinois, despite the scandals. Nationally, he’s given very high marks — with the possible exception of Bloomberg of NYC, Daley is probably the most well-respected big city Mayor in America. Linking Obama to Daley would be a boon, no a bust.

  44. - Squideshi - Tuesday, Jan 23, 07 @ 2:01 pm:

    This is a nonissue.

  45. - VanillaMan - Tuesday, Jan 23, 07 @ 2:03 pm:

    There is a smear out there that Fox is in the hip pocket of Republicans. There is no proof of that any further than the smear that the other news agencies are in the hip pocket of Democrats.

    That said, how has Fox responded to these new reports? They apologized. Wow. Nice to know they will report on their mistakes too, isn’t it?

    How had CBS responded regarding Rathergate? Oh, thats right, Rather is still in denial.

    I don’t care about who is in who’s pocket. What I care about is whether a news organization is big enough to admit mistakes when mistakes occur. You can depend more on a news source that is willing to report on their mistakes than a news source that stonewalls and refuses.

    I have read it all. I have given weight to this story about Obama. I have come to the conclusion that there is nothing to it. It was a good question to ask, but simple logic dictates that even if you believe the worst case scenario out there, most of us are not dictated by our kindergarden and first grade experiences 40 years later in life.

    The entire story is utter nonsense. Now stop attacking those who ask other questions about Obama. He can handle it, or he wouldn’t be a very good president, would he?

  46. - ArchPundit - Tuesday, Jan 23, 07 @ 2:11 pm:

    ===There is a smear out there that Fox is in the hip pocket of Republicans. There is no proof of that any further than the smear that the other news agencies are in the hip pocket of Democrats.

    Actually there are memos

    Where did Fox apologize? They simply said that Obama’s camp disputes the claim. That isn’t an apology. That isn’t even a correction.

  47. - VanillaMan - Tuesday, Jan 23, 07 @ 4:24 pm:

    Wait a minute.
    We are discussing lousy reporting on stupid rumors, and you link us to - WONKETTE?

    Oh so sad…

  48. - ArchPundit - Tuesday, Jan 23, 07 @ 4:52 pm:

    Actually its one of the few places where the memos are shown in their entirety. You can check Poynter and Columbia Journalism Review for stories on the memos.

    I’m not sure of your point though given the memos have been known about for some time and authenticated.

  49. - Sahims2 - Tuesday, Jan 23, 07 @ 5:39 pm:

    Well, here’s a comment about Obama-Rama that can’t be denied - he’s a member of the Congressional Black Caucus - an organization that does not allow White members - the opposite of which is not acceptable in this society, or so it seems. The CBC’s mission says it is to help all Americans, so then why don’t they admit white congressional members into their membership? This reeks of hypocrisy to me. Obama talks about dealing with his racial problems while growing up, but has no problems closing the door on people outside of his race? I also noticed that the CBC while expousing to help all Americans only mention the African-Americans as their only minority concern and no where on their website did I see Latinos or Asian-Americans noted. Hmmm, Apparently helping all Americans sounds good until you look a little deeper at their real intentions.

  50. - gus bode - Wednesday, Jan 24, 07 @ 5:57 am:

    It’s an attempt to stop Obama, because once he gets started Clinton, the other Dems and the GOP knows it is going to be hard, if not impossible, to stop him from a winning.

  51. - JJSpringfield - Wednesday, Jan 24, 07 @ 7:22 am:

    Sahims2, you’re a genius. The only black senator is a member of the black caucus…did you have a paid research team dig that up?

    Tell you what, you might be on to something. You take that fine argument and you run with it.

  52. - anonamoose - Thursday, Jan 25, 07 @ 7:53 am:

    Fired? Why would anybody get fired for doing exactly what the network and magazine owners of Fox and Insight wants their reporters to do?

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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