Was Sen. Barack Obama a Muslim? Did he ever practice Islam?
The presidential candidate officially rejects the claims, but the issue of Obama's personal faith has re-emerged amid conflicting accounts of his enrollment as a Muslim during elementary school in Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation.
Widely distributed reports have noted in January 1968, Obama was registered as a Muslim at Jakarta's Roman Catholic Franciscus Assisi Primary School under the name Barry Soetoro. He was listed as an Indonesian citizen whose stepfather, listed on school documents as "L Soetoro Ma," worked for the topography department of the Indonesian Army.
Catholic schools in Indonesia routinely accept non-Catholic students, but exempt them from studying religion. Obama's school documents, though, wrongly list him as being Indonesian.
After attending the Assisi Primary School, Obama was enrolled also as a Muslim, according to documents in the Besuki Primary School, a public school in Jakarta.
The Loatze blog notes:
"All Indonesian students are required to study religion at school and a young 'Barry Soetoro' being a Muslim would have been required to study Islam daily in school. He would have been taught to read and write Arabic, to recite his prayers properly, to read and recite from the Quran and to study the laws of Islam."
Israel Insider online magazine notes that in Obama's autobiography, "Dreams From My Father," he acknowledges studying the Quran and describes the public school as "a Muslim school."
"In the Muslim school, the teacher wrote to tell mother I made faces during Quranic studies,"wrote Obama.
The Indonesian media have been flooded with accounts of Obama's childhood Islamic studies, some describing him as a religious Muslim .
Speaking to the country's Kaltim Post, Tine Hahiyary, who was principal of Obama's school while he was enrolled there, said she recalls he studied the Quran in Arabic.
"I remember that he studied 'mengaji (recitation of the Quran),"Tine said, according to an English translation by Loatze.
Also, Loatze documented the Indonesian daily Banjarmasin Post caught up with Rony Amir, an Obama classmate and Muslim, who describe Obama as "previously quite religious in Islam."
The Los Angeles Times, which sent a reporter to Jakarta, quoted Zulfin Adi, who identified himself as among Obama's closest childhood friends, stating the presidential candidate prayed in a mosque, something Obama's campaign claimed he never did.
Obama's official campaign site has a page titled "Obama has never been a Muslim, and is a committed Christian." The page states, "Obama never prayed in a mosque. He has never been a Muslim, was not raised a Muslim, and is a committed Christian who attends the United Church of Christ."
But the Tribune found Obama did attend mosque.
It quotes the presidential candidate's former neighbors and 3rd grade teacher recalling Obama "occasionally followed his stepfather to the mosque for Friday prayers."
In a free-ranging interview with the New York Times, Obama described the Muslim call to prayer as "one of the prettiest sounds on Earth at sunset."
The Times' Nicholos Kristof wrote Obama recited, "with a first-class [Arabic] accent," the opening lines of the Muslim call to prayer.