Indonesia: In Search of Obama's Madrasah

Over a year ago, Fox News released a story stating that Senator Barack Obama had been educated at a ‘secular madrasah’ as a young child in Indonesia. A madrasah (loosely translated to mean ‘school’ in English) may not sound like a big of a deal, but associating madrasah to words such as ‘secular’, ‘Islam’ or ‘mosque’ can put a simple institution for youngsters under suspicion in the eyes of Americans… at least, that’s what the story has suggested since Fox News disseminated it last year, according to a report by Jotman from Thailand.

The popular blogger happened to be in Jakarta, Indonesia and decided to do some investigative reporting and tracked down Sen Obama’s so-called madrasah.

Obama's so called madrasah

“As a young child, Barack Obama lived in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta for five years with his American mother. First, I want to make it clear that I don't think it should matter to us what kind of school Obama attended as a child. As to his present faith, the controversy concerning his Chicago pastor highlights his longstanding membership in a Christian church. In any case, I personally do not think religious affiliation tells us anything meaningful about a candidate's fitness for office.

“Nevertheless, simply because a recurring rumor such as this can and should to be addressed, I tracked down the truth concerning Obama's Indonesian sojourn.”

Sen Obama reportedly attended two schools in Indonesia. One school that was completely missed out by the American media was the SD Franciscus Assisi. A school named after a Roman Catholic friar, who is also a well known patron saint of the Christian faith.

Jotman said that he had to cross SD Franciscus Assisi off his list.

“I have it on good word that not many madrasah are named after Saint Francis. So I crossed that school off my list. What about the second school Obama attended in Indonesia?

“The name sounded fairly benign: SDN Menteng 01. But if the young Obama attended a madrasah, this was it. So I hailed a taxi and paid a visit to SDN Menteng.”

The school turned out to be located just a block away from where the current American Ambassador to Indonesia is residing.

“… the road leading to the school was blocked by security to protect the American Ambassador’s residence.

“Nearby are two old churches. It's not your typical neighborhood in this, the world's largest predominantly Muslim country.

”The SDN Menteng 01 facility is built around a courtyard which serves as a basketball court. Obama's love for this American sport almost certainly began here.

”Above the court, to one corner, is small mosque structure (first photo).

“Yep, the school has a small mosque attached to it. Had I found the fabled madrasah?”

A child reading a book at the madrasah

But if this was a training center for jihad, something was badly amiss, noted Jotman.

”Because as I stood in the courtyard staring up at the small dome, students flew by me shooting hoops. In fact, most of the students circulating around the basketball court were girls. They wore no head scarves. In fact, one girl wore surfer shorts. I watched as she aggressively kept two boys in check.

“I listened hard, but I did not hear any chorus of small voices reciting the Koran. Instead, from inside the entrance foyer came shouts of kids practicing their Kung-fu kicks and punches. Ka! Ka! I saw yellow, orange, and green belts tied around small white coats. The principal would later tell me that the children have a choice of thirteen after-school activities.

”Undeterred, I told the school principal about my urgent need to verify whether his school was, in fact, a madrasah. So the principal summoned the custodian. And the custodian walked me upstairs to a locked green door adjacent to some classrooms. He turned the key and the door opened.”

That was when Jotman said he saw Jesus Christ.

”… I saw his likeness framed on the wall. In one corner of the room Bibles were stacked on a table behind a crucifix. The sign above the door read Christians Lesson Room.

“The principal explained to me that the Indonesian concept of religious freedom means public schools like SDN Menteng 01 provide religious education for students — whatever their faith. Whereas the American approach has been to exclude religion from public schools, the Indonesian way is to provide religious lessons to students — according to the faith of the student's family — through the public school.

“In my opinion, it makes little difference what kind of school a forty-six year old man attended when he was a child of six. But we can see that any allegations that Obama attended some kind of extremist Islamic institute as a child are entirely without substance.”

Jotman also offered a bit of background on his story:

“Background: CNN was the first to debunk this story. Since this rumor was started by Insight Magazine and shortly thereafter broadcast by Fox News, over 50 news organizations have paid a visit to SDN Menteng 01, the principle told me. Jotman was not the last. Just as I was leaving, a foreign camera crew was moving in to do yet another story.

”Fox News has apparently succeeded in removing all trace of its original report that Obama attended a madrasah. The wildly inaccurate Fox News video clips have been removed from YouTube on “copyright infringement grounds.” The real story here is the fact that Fox News gives substance to outrageous rumors, and then — after the distortion had been exposed — attempts to cover up its tracks. As I have blogged, not only does Fox News make American people stupid, it forments anti-American sentiment overseas.”


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