Baptizing Obama's Granny Irks Muslims
By IslamOnline.net & News Agencies
"When I heard there were plans to baptize me, I rejected," Sarah said. (Google)
NAIROBI — An attempt by a protestant church to convert US President Barack Obama's Muslim step-grandmother to Christianity has drawn the ire of Kenyan Muslims who urged the government to intervene.
"I regret the attempt by the Christian religion to force her to convert," Sheikh Mohamed Khalifa, the organizing secretary of the Council of Imams and Preachers of Kenya, told Agence France Presse (AFP) on Monday, April 20.
The Seventh Day Adventist church in the western town of Kisumu had planed to baptize Mama Sarah, 87, in a major ceremony on Saturday, April 18.
But when Sarah received the invitation she was surprised and declined to attend.
"When I heard there were plans to baptize me, I rejected," she told the Nairobi-based The Standard daily.
Sarah became a national celebrity when her grandson visited the country in 2006.
Her modest homestead has become a tourist attraction since Obama, the former Illinois senator, was elected America's first ever black president last November.
Obama, who describes himself as a proud follower of the Trinity United Church of Christ, is the son of a Muslim-turned-atheist Kenyan father and a white American mother who did not practice religion.
Born in Hawaii, he lived from ages 6 to 10 in Indonesia with his mother and Muslim stepfather.
Obama made a reference to his Kenyan Muslim relatives in a keynote speech before the Turkish parliament.
"Many other Americans have Muslims in their family, or have lived in a Muslim-majority country – I know, because I am one of them."
Muslims dismissed the attempt to Christianize Obama's granny was an unjustifiable provocation.
"Why her? Why not before Obama became president? Didn't they see her before he became president?" imam Khalifa wondered.
The Muslim leader urged the government to take action against the church, indicating that such acts fuel sectarian tension.
"The government has to urgently intervene over the matter to prevent a religious stalemate."
There are nearly ten million Muslims in Kenya, which has a population of 36 million.
"Muslims will not sit back and watch one of their own being coerced by some Christian religious leaders to convert to Christianity," warned imam Khalifa.
Defiant church pastors said they would not give up on convincing Sarah to convert.
They camped at her Kogelo home, trying to convince her to be baptized.
"Mama (Sarah) was born a Muslim and wishes to die a Muslim," her son Saidi Obama, a step-brother to the US president, told AFP.
"The issue of conversion is neither here not there."