Luttwak, a fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, argues against the notion "that an Obama presidency would be welcomed by the Muslim world."
As the son of the Muslim father, Senator Obama was born a Muslim under Muslim law as it is universally understood. It makes no difference that, as Senator Obama has written, his father said he renounced his religion. Likewise, under Muslim law based on the Koran his mother's Christian background is irrelevant.
Of course, as most Americans understand it, Senator Obama is not a Muslim. He chose to become a Christian, and indeed has written convincingly to explain how he arrived at his choice and how important his Christian faith is to him.
His conversion, however, was a crime in Muslim eyes; it is "irtidad" or "ridda," usually translated from the Arabic as "apostasy," but with connotations of rebellion and treason. Indeed, it is the worst of all crimes that a Muslim can commit, worse than murder (which the victim's family may choose to forgive).
Aside from the larger politics of the matter, Luttwak suggests that it would pose special risks to Obama's personal safety.
Nonsense, says Cole. "It is just so discouraging that such an ignorant and illogical comment was made by a prominent American pundit," he writes, "and that The New York Times leant its pages to this complete drivel."
"Of course, this column is a stealth way of bringing back up the myth of Obama being a Muslim, and it is profoundly dishonest," Cole says.
He disputes Luttwak's Koranic interpretation, and his historical and political reasoning.
The bottom line, though, according to Cole, is that "Barack Obama never accepted or practiced Islam as an adult (which would be age 15 in Islamic law) and therefore according to classical Islamic jurisprudence cannot be an apostate."
Regarding security, Cole says:
An American president might be in danger in the Middle East. But it would be because of the hatred for the United States provoked by the brutal military tactics of the Bush administration and by its blithe unconcern for the welfare of Palestinians and other local people.
It would be because Bush is the apostate, since he was born under the U.S. constitution but he left it for a faith in torture, killing innocents, neocolonialism, and mass murder (as at Fallujah).
That's the apostasy that Middle Easterners most mind.