When Barack Obama stepped onto the national political stage almost a decade ago, rumors swirled that he was secretly a Muslim. These rumors have frequently been debunked — the U.S. president is a practicing Christian — but they persist nonetheless: In a poll conducted in 2014, 54 percent of Republicans were found to believe that Obama was a Muslim “deep down.”
The endurance of these conspiracy theories can probably be attributed to Obama’s position as the first African American president of the United States — his two terms as president have been wrapped up in issues of race and identity. But it’s also worth noting how these theories have mutated as they traveled abroad, adapting in unexpected ways to fit regional arguments.
One of the most persistent and widespread of these conspiracy theories gets more specific than its American variant: Obama isn’t just a Muslim, this theory goes… he’s a Shiite Muslim.