What is 'The Seed of Islam?'

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According to Franklin Graham, Barack Obama has it:

"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 told CNN's John King in a televised interview that aired Thursday night.

"Now it's obvious that the president has renounced the prophet Mohammed, and he has renounced Islam, and he has accepted Jesus Christ. That's 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, adding that "the Islamic world sees the president as one of theirs."

This kind of rhetoric has a strange historical antecedent in Jewish history. In the 1400s, in Spain, a movement arose that questioned the sincerity of those Jews who had previously converted to Catholicism. The profession of faith by these converts was not enough for many authorities -- they believed these ostensible Catholics still possessed the seed of Judaism, as it were, and they established the Inquisition to root out these false Christians. I'm not, of course, equating the current burst of Islamophobia in the U.S. to the Inquisition, absolutely not. But I am noting how disturbing it is to see Barack Obama's profession of faith questioned in such a crude and mistrustful way.

And one other thing -- I find it particularly disturbing to see Jews, of all people, participating in this type of questioning. Worse, some Jews are joining the on-line anti-Muslim mob. Anti-Muslim sentiment in America today has many of the hallmarks of the anti-Semitism of yesteryear. American Jews should be able to see that.

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Jeffrey Goldberg is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and a recipient of the National Magazine Award for Reporting. He is the author of Prisoners: A Story of Friendship and Terror. More

Before joining The Atlantic in 2007, Goldberg was a Middle East correspondent, and the Washington correspondent, for The New Yorker. He was previouslly a correspondent for The New York Times Magazine and New York magazine. He has also written for the Jewish Daily Forward and was a columnist for The Jerusalem Post.

Goldberg's book Prisoners was hailed as one of the best books of 2006 by the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Slate, The Progressive, Washingtonian magazine, and Playboy. He received the 2003 National Magazine Award for Reporting for his coverage of Islamic terrorism and the 2005 Anti-Defamation League Daniel Pearl Prize. He is also the winner of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists prize for best international investigative journalist; the Overseas Press Club award for best human-rights reporting; and the Abraham Cahan Prize in Journalism.

In 2001, Goldberg was appointed the Syrkin Fellow in Letters of the Jerusalem Foundation, and in 2002 he became a public-policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.

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