What is 'The Seed of Islam?'

By Jeffrey Goldberg

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.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2010/08/what-is-the-seed-of-islam/61875/