From the Fact Check Desk: President Obama and Muslims in America

Jun 4, 2009 1:05pm

A bizarre and inaccurate meme is circulating among conservatives that President Obama referred to the U.S. as a "Muslim nation."

It's not even remotely true…

In an interview with France's Canal Plus TV on June 1, President Obama said that "if you actually took the number of Muslims Americans, we’d be one of the largest Muslim countries in the world."

His point, it seems clear, is that numerically there are enough Muslims in the U.S. to make it one of the biggest "Muslim nations" in the world if — hypothetically — one were only counting Muslims.

(That happens to be a fairly debatable claim, but we'll get to that in a second.. One fact check at a time.)

On April 6 in Turkey, President Obama said "one of the great strengths of the United States is — although as I mentioned, we have a very large Christian population, we do not consider ourselves a Christian nation or a Jewish nation or a Muslim nation; we consider ourselves a nation of citizens who are bound by ideals and a set of values."

So it's crystal clear. The president does not think the U.S. is a Muslim nation, and he never said that it was.

Now, to President Obama's claim.

The president today in Cairo referred to the "nearly seven million American Muslims in our country today."

When asked where the president got the 7 million figure, the White House said the CIA World Fact Book was the source. But the CIA World Fact Book on its web site says the U.S. Muslim population is 0.6 percent of the 307 million population, putting the number of Muslims in the U.S. at 1.8 million.

The Pew Research Center, in a 2007 book on Muslim Americans wrote:

"The U.S. Census does not ask about a respondent’s religious affiliation in its national. surveys; as a consequence, there are no generally accepted estimates of the size of the Muslim American population. The Pew study projects approximately 1.5 million adult Muslim Americans, 18 years of age and older. The total Muslim American population is estimated at 2.35 million, based on data from this survey and available Census Bureau data on immigrants’ nativity and nationality. It is important to note that both of these estimates are approximations."

Even if one were to accept the president's rough estimate of nearly seven million Muslims in the U.S., that would make the U.S. — under this hypothetical — about the 32nd largest Muslim nation.

Behind Indonesia, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Turkey, Egypt, Nigeria, Iran, Algeria, Morocco, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Iraq, Uzbekistan, Ethiopia, Russia, Yemen, China, Syria, Malaysia, Tanzania, Mali, Niger, Senegal, Tunisia, Somalia, Guinea, Azerbaijan, Burkina Faso, and Kazakhstan.

But if you go by the Pew or the CIA World Fact Book estimates, the U.S. wouldn't even be top 50.

It is true that the U.S., even going by the smaller estimate, has a larger Muslim population than some notably Muslim — but small — countries such as Jordan or Kuwait.

– jpt

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