Muslim or Christian? Religion row dogs Obama

Graham, son of famed presidential religious adviser Billy Graham, told CNN on Thursday that while he believes Obama is now a Christian, the president was born a Muslim because the "seed of Islam" is passed through the father.

On Friday, White House spokesman Bill Burton said that while Graham is entitled to his own opinion, the president is Christian.

"The president is a committed Christian," Burton told reporters. "I think that the American people know that, and Franklin Graham is certainly entitled to his opinion."

A poll released Thursday, conducted by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, found that nearly one in five Americans believes Obama is a Muslim, up from around one in 10 Americans who last year said they believed he was Muslim.

Burton said Friday he isn't sure why the numbers have increased. "I can't say why people necessarily changed their mind in this poll, I can't say why folks even answer the question when pollsters call," Burton said.

When told one of the reasons cited by many was that the president was not seen going to church on Sunday, Burton said, "By the president choosing a church, it does put undue pressure on that congregation, and it makes it a lot harder for folks to get into the church and to worship". 

But "he (Obama) prays every day. He talks to a wide range of pastors and religious leaders periodically. And you'll see him in church again. I mean, he's been to church as president. He'll go to church once again. But he is getting spiritual guidance on a regular basis."

Obama was born to a Kenyan father and an American mother and was brought up by his maternal grandparents in Hawaii because his father, who was also called Barack, left for Africa when Obama was just two. He has said in his autobiography that his grandfather, Hussein Onyango Obama, was a Muslim.

Asked by CNN Thursday if he had any doubts about Obama's Christian faith, Graham, who has made controversial comments about Islam in the past, said the president's background is fuelling the false perception that he is a Muslim.

"I think the president's problem is that he was born a Muslim, his father was a Muslim. The seed of Islam is passed through the father like the seed of Judaism is passed through the mother. He was born a Muslim, his father gave him an Islamic name," Graham said.

"Now it's obvious that the president has renounced the Prophet Mohammed and he has renounced Islam and he has accepted Jesus Christ. That is what he says he has done, I cannot say that he hasn't. So I just have to believe that the president is what he has said," Graham continued.

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