Fact Check

Why Michelle Came Home

Did Barack Obama's status as a Muslim prevent his wife from traveling with him to Islamic countries?

Published May 26, 2009

Claim:   Barack Obama's status as a Muslim prevented his wife from traveling with him to Islamic countries in April 2009.


Examples:   [Collected via e-mail, May 2009]

This is a conversation between a friend of mine and two Arabs in Gainesville on May 2. We have always heard that once a Muslim always a Muslim, and it must still be true.

I was at Blockbusters on Saturday renting videos, and I was going along the wall and there was a video called "Obama". I told the men next to me that I wouldn't waste my time. We talked about Obama. These guys were Arabs and I asked them why they thought Michele Obama headed home following her visit in France instead of traveling on to Saudi Arabia and Turkey with her husband. They said she couldn't go to Saudi Arabia, Turkey or Iraq.

I said, "Laura Bush went to Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Dubai."

They said that Obama is a Muslim and by Muslim law he would not be allowed to bring his wife into the countries that accept Sharia Law. Just thought it was interesting that the Arabs at Blockbusters accept the idea that we're being led by a Muslim who follows the Islamic creed. They also said that's the reason he bowed to the King of Saudi Arabia. It was a signal to the Muslim world. Just thought you would like to know.

Sheppard Smith, Fox News.

"If you check President Obama's last trip overseas, his wife left just after their visit to France. She has yet to accompany him to any Arab country. Think about it. Why is Michelle returning to the states when 'official' trips to foreign countries generally include the First Lady."

Here's one thought on the matter.

While in a Blockbuster renting videos, I came across a video called "Obama". There were two men standing next to me and we talked about President Obama. These guys were Arabs, so I asked them why they thought Michelle Obama headed home following the President's recent visit to France instead of traveling on to Saudi Arabia and Turkey with her husband. They told me she could not go to Saudi Arabia, Turkey or Iraq .....

I said "Why not? Laura Bush went to Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Dubai." They said that Obama is a Muslim and therefore, he is not allowed to bring his wife into countries that adhere to Sharia Law.


Origins:   There are several ways the above-quoted anonymous account of an encounter with anonymous Arabs at an unidentified Blockbuster video store could be debunked, starting with the fact that its premise is false: Barack Obama is not a Muslim. That fact aside, the central claims of this account are still demonstrably false:

  • The gist of this message claims that during Barack Obama's first major foreign trip as President of the United States in April 2009, his wife Michelle did not accompany him for the full duration of his visit abroad because the itinerary included Islamic countries governed by sharia law into which he, as a

    Muslim, was prohibited from bringing the First Lady. But President Obama did not visit any sharia law-governed countries during that trip.

    The countries to which President Obama traveled during his foreign visit were France, the UK, Germany, the Czech Republic, and Turkey. Of those five nations, the only one with a predominantly Islamic population is Turkey, and that country is governed by secular law, not Islamic sharia law. President Obama did not visit Saudi Arabia during that trip as claimed; he met with King Abdullah at the G20 economic summit in London, not in Saudi Arabia. (President Obama did eventually go to Saudi Arabia, but only as part of a separate trip undertaken two months after the one referenced in the e-mail quoted above.)

  • Sharia law varies slighty with region and custom, but in general it includes no provisions that would prohibit a woman from accompanying her husband (Muslim or otherwise) on a visit to a sharia law-governed country,
  • As a visiting government official, a President of United States would not be subject to such a law. The notion of President Obama's not being able to take the First Lady along on a state visit to a foreign country due to local laws prohibiting such travel is akin to claiming that a foreign potentate with multiple wives could not bring along more than one spouse on a visit to the United States because the U.S. has laws against polygamy.

Last updated:   30 August 2014


    Spillius, Alex.   "G20 Summit: Barack Obama Begins First Major Foreign Trip as President."

    The Telegraph.   31 March 2009.

    Agence France Presse.   "Obama Leaves Turkey at End of European Trip."

    7 April 2009.

    Agence France Presse.   "Turks Rally in Support of Secular System."

    26 May 2009.

David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994.

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