While living in Jakarta from ages 6 through 9, young Obama temporarily took the last name of his stepfather, Soetoro, for school purposes. He was listed as a Muslim on school documents because students were listed in the religion of their fathers. Lolo was not particularly religious; Stanley Ann was spiritual but not part of any formal religion. For most of his three-plus years in Indonesia, Obama attended a Catholic grade school. When his family moved to a better neighborhood in his final year, he went to the local grade school, one of the best in the city. The central doctrine taught at S.D. Besuki was not Islam but Pancasila, or five principles, of modern Indonesia, which evoked the unity of the islands on the vast archipelago, social justice and a belief in one God. Conservative Muslims detested Pancasila (a Sanskrit word revealing Indonesia’s Hindu heritage), insisting that it was too liberal and open to too many religions and interpretations.
In both the issues of Obama’s birth and of his religion, documents and common sense lead in one direction. Obama’s doubters run the other way: His birth certificates must be fake; his espoused Christianity must be a cover. Another group of right-wing doubters hold on to the notion that Obama is a closet socialist, some sort of Manchurian candidate, an idea that his every move as a pragmatic liberal politician over the past 16 years has utterly disproved. Some others maintain that he was not smart enough to get into Occidental, Columbia and Harvard Law, and too inept to write his own memoir, which one particularly obsessed conspiratorialist claims was penned by the former radical Bill Ayers. What about the well-written letters from Obama that are published in my book? Those, too, must be frauds slipped to me by the Obama administration.