CNN debunks false report about Obama
January 23, 2007
JAKARTA, Indonesia (CNN) -- Allegations that Sen. Barack Obama was educated in a radical Muslim school known as a "madrassa" are not accurate, according to CNN reporting.
Insight Magazine, which is owned by the same company as The Washington Times, reported on its Web site last week that associates of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-New York, had unearthed information the Illinois Democrat and likely presidential candidate attended a Muslim religious school known for teaching the most fundamentalist form of Islam.
Obama lived in Indonesia as a child, from 1967 to 1971, with his mother and stepfather and has acknowledged attending a Muslim school, but an aide said it was not a madrassa. (Watch video of Obama's school Video)
Insight attributed the information in its article to an unnamed source, who said it was discovered by "researchers connected to Senator Clinton." A spokesman for Clinton, who is also weighing a White House bid, denied that the campaign was the source of the Obama claim.
He called the story "an obvious right-wing hit job."
Insight stood by its story in a response posted on its Web site Monday afternoon.
The Insight article was cited several times Friday on Fox News and was also referenced by the New York Post, The Glenn Beck program on CNN Headline News and a number of political blogs. (Watch how the Obama "gossip" spread Video)
School not a madrassa
But reporting by CNN in Jakarta, Indonesia and Washington, D.C., shows the allegations that Obama attended a madrassa to be false. CNN dispatched Senior International Correspondent John Vause to Jakarta to investigate.
He visited the Basuki school, which Obama attended from 1969 to 1971.
"This is a public school. We don't focus on religion," Hardi Priyono, deputy headmaster of the Basuki school, told Vause. "In our daily lives, we try to respect religion, but we don't give preferential treatment."
Vause reported he saw boys and girls dressed in neat school uniforms playing outside the school, while teachers were dressed in Western-style clothes.
"I came here to Barack Obama's elementary school in Jakarta looking for what some are calling an Islamic madrassa ... like the ones that teach hate and violence in Pakistan and Afghanistan," Vause said on the "Situation Room" Monday. "I've been to those madrassas in Pakistan ... this school is nothing like that."
Vause also interviewed one of Obama's Basuki classmates, Bandug Winadijanto, who claims that not a lot has changed at the school since the two men were pupils. Insight reported that Obama's political opponents believed the school promoted Wahhabism, a fundamentalist form of Islam, "and are seeking to prove it."
"It's not (an) Islamic school. It's general," Winadijanto said. "There is a lot of Christians, Buddhists, also Confucian. ... So that's a mixed school."
The Obama aide described Fox News' broadcasting of the Insight story "appallingly irresponsible."
Fox News executive Bill Shine told CNN "Reliable Sources" anchor Howard Kurtz that some of the network's hosts were simply expressing their opinions and repeatedly cited Insight as the source of the allegations.
Obama has noted in his two books, "Dreams From My Father" and "The Audacity of Hope," that he spent two years in a Muslim school and another two years in a Catholic school while living in Indonesia from age 6 to 10.
Obama's Catholic School Ready for Possible Visit
Voice of Indonesia
Monday, 15 March 2010 21:31
Jakarta, VOI News - The Catholic school Barack Obama attended as a child in Jakarta is getting ready to receive a possible visit when the US president comes to Indonesia later this month.
“We do not know for sure if President Obama will visit this school, but we are prepared for the visit,” Maria Yohana of Santo Fransiskus Asisi Elementary School told Union of Catholic Asian News. “We will serve fried rice and rambutan, his favorite food."
She said students had also prepared a number of performances, including a traditional Jakarta Betawi dance, the Balinese pendet, and Sundanese angklung music. Yohana said the school would also like to show Obama its new leadership laboratory, "whose vision is to produce future leaders based on love".
Obama attended Santo Fransiskus Asisi from 1968 to 1970, before transferring to Menteng 01 elementary school. While the latter has a statue of the child then known as "Barry", Santo Fransiskus has set aside the desk and chair he used. “I want to shake hands and get his signature," said current student Stefanus Febrian, 10. "I also want to ask him about his favorite subject."
Meanwhile, the latest Indonesian book about Barack Obama was launched in Jakarta on Monday, the week before the US President is scheduled to arrive in Indonesia. The book titled "Obama Anak Menteng" ("Obama The Menteng Kid") was written by Damien Dematra. During a launching at Obama's former elementary school in Menteng, Damien said he hoped the book would inspire Indonesian children to dare to dream.
Obama was successful “because of the power of dreams," he told Trijaya Radio. Damien wrote the 206 page book in five days after spending two weeks interviewing Obama's childhood friends and relatives in Indonesia. He said the book would be made into a movie in June. Several books have been written about Obama in Indonesia. The US leader spent part of his childhood in Menteng after his mother married an Indonesian. jg
Obama's Early Days in Jakarta
Former Teacher Remembers 'Barry' as a Good Student, Leader
...Fermina Katarina Sinaga Suhanda, Obama's third-grade teacher, remembered him distinctly because he looked different.
"He's the only black, he's the only one with curly hair," she said, adding that he was also bigger than the other children.
She also remembered a telling essay from the Illinois senator.
"He wrote like this," Suhanda said in Bahasa, the local language. "I am Barry Soetoro. I am in third grade [at] Fransiskus Asisi Elementary School."
He wrote about his friends, parents, Indonesia and ended the essay with "I want to be the president."
The president of what, the third-grader did not specify.
"To be President Taxi or where I don't know," Suhanda said.
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Obama's teachers said he was already showing signs of leadership at a young age. They described him as a "number-two teacher," sharing how he used to lead his classmates to line up after recess and volunteer to erase the chalkboard.
They remembered how his mother walked Obama to school in the mornings and occasionally exchanged words with them in Bahasa.
His best subject, in a school taught in the local language, was math. Referring to teachers as "ma'am," he dressed neatly with his shirt tucked in and wore shoes and socks, while some of the other children wore sandals or flip-flops, his teachers remembered.
Friends said that Obama is left-handed, a noticeable trait in a predominately Muslim country, where the left hand is reserved for bodily hygiene.
He was fast and agile, good at playing ball, and hide and seek. In many ways, he was just like his energetic classmates.
"Some boys [were] always running around and teas[ing] the girls, and Barry was one of them," Kisjanto said, recalling how Obama sometimes pulled their long, braided hair.
Over time, Obama's mother's Indonesian husband landed a better job, and the family moved into another home in a better neighborhood. With a long side hallway connecting them, the rooms of their house were lined up back-to-back like a train. A bench the family of four sat in for a family portrait still sits in the front room.
In third grade, Obama transferred to Besuki Elementary School, a school political opponents would later proclaim was a "madrassas." Classmates who attended the school know otherwise and said the mosque that is there now wasn't there before.
"Everybody is exposed to both religion[s] -- both Muslim and Christian. So it was a very open, very tolerant school," said Kisjanto, who is Christian.
"Because our class[rooms] are open, we don't have air conditioning at that time, so we can hear [when] the Muslims are reciting the Koran, and I can still remember it, and I can recite it because I hear[d] it," she said. "It's lovely that we are exposed to both religion[s]."
Obama detailed in his book his recollection of living in a world with his mother so distant from America.