In his speeches and often on the Internet, the part of Sen. Barack Obama's biography that gets the most attention is not his race but his connections to the Muslim world.
Since declaring his candidacy for president in February, Obama, a member of a congregation of the United Church of Christ in Chicago, has had to address assertions that he is a Muslim or that he had received training in Islam in Indonesia, where he lived from ages 6 to 10. While his father was an atheist and his mother did not practice religion, Obama's stepfather did occasionally attend services at a mosque there.
Obama's advisers say they are not worried that the candidate will hurt his campaign by invoking his connections to the Islamic world. "He understands that there are scurrilous attack e-mails going on underground that distort his religious affiliation and worse, but his judgment is that he trusts the American people more than that," said David Axelrod, a top Obama strategist. "He genuinely believes. . . . that people want to have a president that the world looks at and says, 'I believe this guy has an understanding of us and how we fit together on the planet.' "