Prayers for Obama to be Muslim

U.S. President Obama's Kenyan grandmother says she prayed for him to become Muslim during her pilgrimage to Mecca.

Maayana Miskin , | updated: 11:55 AM

President Barack Obama
President Barack Obama
Israel news photo: The White House

The Kenyan grandmother of United States President Barack Obama has told a Saudi daily paper that she prays for her grandson to convert to Islam. Sarah Omar, 88, told Al-Watan that she prayed for Obama to become Muslim during her recent pilgrimage to Mecca.

Omar was in Saudi Arabia for the pilgrimage along with her son Saeed Hussein Obama, Obama's uncle, and four grandchildren.

While Omar is not Obama's biological grandmother, she raised his father after the father's mother left the family, and so is considered his grandmother according to Kenyan culture.

Obama has battled rumors that he is Muslim for years. Polls conducted in August show that approximately 20% of Americans believe him to be Muslim.

Obama says he is a “committed Christian” who has attended church regularly for decades.

The rumors regarding his alleged Muslim status circle around his father Barack Obama senior, who was raised as a Muslim. According to Islamic law, a child's status follows the father, making the children of a Muslim man Muslim as well.

Obama's parents divorced when he was young, and he lived for several years with his mother and stepfather in Indonesia, then in Hawaii with his mother and maternal grandparents. His stepfather, Lolo Soeoro, was an Indonesian Muslim.

Rumors have also been fueled in part by Obama's attempts to reach out to the Muslim world. In June 2009 he gave a speech in Cairo in which he called for "a new beginning" in U.S. ties with Muslim states, and mentioned his own Muslim ties. He bowed to the Saudi Arabian ruler when they met, hosted Muslim business leaders in April and told NASA to "reach out to Muslims", sparking a new set of rumors about his religious affiliation.