Obama Rips Fox News Over Madrassa Story -- Faith Leaders Deplore and Condemn Smear Tactics
With a staffer declaring, "We will not be swift-boated," Sen. Barack Obama fought back Wednesday against an allegation that he was educated at a radical Islamic school as a child in Indonesia.
A statement by the Obama campaign stated: "To be clear, Senator Obama has never been a Muslim, was not raised a Muslim, and is a committed Christian who attends the United Church of Christ in Chicago. Furthermore, the Indonesian school Obama attended in Jakarta is a public school that is not and never has been a Madrassa."
Interviews by The Associated Press and CNN at the elementary school in Jakarta found that it's a public and secular institution that has been open to students of all faiths since before the White House hopeful attended in the late 1960s.
"We are writing to deplore this despicable tactic," said the Rev. Bob Edgar, general secretary of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA, and eight other leaders. "We have had enough of the slash and burn politics calculated to divide us as children of God," said the leaders today in an open letter to the religious community
"The bitter, destructive politics that have so riven our country in recent years cannot stand," states the open letter. "As American leaders of different faiths - Catholic and Protestant, Muslim and Jew - who have worked cooperatively and greatly respect all of the 2008 candidates in both parties, we do not offer this statement as an endorsement of any individual candidate. However, certain moral standards should infuse our national dialogue, and the recent attacks on Sen. Obama violate values at the heart of this dialogue. The false and malicious attacks levied at him are anathema to all of our faith traditions, and we condemn them outright."
Several websites carried the reports that Obama's early education was linked to radical Islamic schooling. CNN reported extensively last night there is no truth to the allegations and the senator has strongly denied the story. One cable news program, "Fox and Friends," aired a discussion assuming the story to be factual.
"I've been saying for awhile now that we must not let fear, fundamentalism and Fox News set our nation's agenda," said NCC's Edgar separately. "Now it appears Fox News is using a political candidate to further foment a fear of fundamentalism in hopes of dividing Americans and pitting people of faith against one another. Faithful Americans must stand up and say no to such sinful behavior," Edgar said.
"It is important that we take a stand today against this willful, malicious attempt to mislead and inflame - and against any further attempts to use political attacks to divide the religious community," concluded the letter.
In addition to the NCC's Edgar the open letter was signed by Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner; Imam Mahdi Bray, executive director, Muslim American Society, Freedom Foundation; Rev. Stephen J. Thurston, president, National Baptist Convention of America; the Rt. Rev. Preston W. Williams, president, Global Council of Bishops, African Methodist Episcopal Church; Sister Simone Campbell, SSS, executive director, NETWORK; Rev. John H. Thomas, general minister and president, United Church of Christ; Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy, president, Interfaith Alliance; Rabbi Jill Jacobs, director of education, Jewish Funds for Justice.---NCC News contact: Dan Webster, 212.870.2252, NCCnews@ncccusa.org