U.S. President Barack Obama, two days before an historic visit to Saudi Arabia and Egypt, told a French television interviewer, “If you actually took the number of Muslim Americans, we'd be one of the largest Muslim countries in the world."
However, statistics show that there are less than eight million Muslims in the U.S., representing barely 2.5 percent of the total population of 304 million. The Islamweb.com site claims there are 10 million Muslims in the U.S., larger than most other estimates but still representing only 3.3 percent of the population.
The U.S. ranks only 26th in the total number of Muslims in each country, according to the website.
President Obama used the number of Muslims in the U.S. as a basis for stating, “There's got to be a better dialogue and a better understanding between the two peoples.”
His remark on his country being one of the largest Muslim centers in the world was headlined around the world and is part of the president’s attempt to reach out to the Muslim world and bridge the gap between it and the United States. President Obama is a Christian who was educated in a Muslim school in his younger years in Indonesia.
He recently has been more open about his origins and his middle name, which is Hussein. He took care not use the name during his election campaign last year but used his full name in appearance in Strasbourg two months ago, according to a London Telegraph blog.
The Turkish parliament also introduced him by his full name during his visit. Turkey is virtually 100 percent Muslim.
President Obama’s favorable reception of Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas last month and his insistence that Israel stop all building for Jews in the Judea and Samaria are seen as paving his way for a warm reception in Egypt, where he will deliver a major speech to the Muslim world.
In another interview before he left the U.S. for the Middle East, the president rejected criticism that his appearance in Cairo gives credence to a country that is charged with being antidemocratic. He told the BBC that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is not “authoritarian," adding that he is "a force for stability and good in the region."