Image: Sarah Hussein Obama.
Paula Bronstein  /  Getty Images file
Sarah Hussein Obama, 86, the grandmother of presidential candidate Barak Obama, holds a photo of her grandson as she awaits the results of Super Tuesday's primary on Feb. 5.
updated 3/5/2008 10:12:17 AM ET 2008-03-05T15:12:17

American shock jocks, dirty tricks masterminds and political bloggers: Beware the wrath of an 86-year-old Kenyan villager.

A frown replaces the dimpled beam of Sarah Hussein Obama, grandmother of U.S. senator Barack Obama, when asked on Wednesday about recent attacks on her grandson that include the spreading of rumors that he is secretly a Muslim and the repeated use of his middle name — Hussein — by a radio host at a rally of the Republican presidential candidate.

"Untruths are told that don't have anything to do with what Barack is about," she said in the local Luo language, her gray hair smoothed neatly under a headwrap. "I am very against it."

Obama and fellow senator Hillary Clinton are close in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination after results from races on Tuesday. Clinton, who was trailing Obama, won the crucial states of Texas and Ohio and won big in Rhode Island. Obama's thin lead narrowed further after he only picked up Vermont.

In recent weeks, two Clinton volunteers in the state of Iowa resigned after forwarding e-mails falsely saying he was a Muslim and a threat to national security. Matt Drudge, who publishes the political blog the Drudge Report, said that he was e-mailed a widely circulated picture of Obama in a turban and robe by the Clinton campaign.

"Bringing such pictures that are trying to imply that not only is he a foreigner, he is a Muslim is wrong, because that is not what he is," scolded Sarah Obama.

The photo was taken when Obama was presented with the outfit while on a visit to his late father's native Kenya, where many of the family still live. Clinton campaign officials have said they did not condone any such dirty tricks.

Senator visited kin three times
Obama's grandfather had converted to Islam from Roman Catholicism and taken the name Hussein, Sarah Obama said, but his children had inherited only the name, not the religion. Each person should be able to choose how they worshipped, she said.

"In the world of today, children have different religions from their parents," she said. She, too, is a Christian.

Barack Obama has visited his Kenyan relatives three times in Kogelo, and his grandmother has gone to the U.S. twice. She says they are close, although they have to speak through an interpreter.

Sarah Obama was the second wife of the candidate's late grandfather, so is not his biological grandmother. But Barack Obama's half sister, Auma Obama, said: "By our definition, in our culture, she is his grandmother," she said.

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The intense interest generated by the race for the Democratic nomination — between two candidates who would either be the first female or the first black president — has thrust Obama's Kenyan family into the spotlight.

Four-wheel-drive vehicles packed with journalists bounce over the rutted red roads, and students at the local high school named after him don't even turn anymore to watch as crews unload satellite equipment under a mango tree.

Each twist and turn of the race is closely scrutinized, says Auma Obama. The family gathered in his grandmother's house on Tuesday night to watch the results come in, she said, on a television donated by a family friend — the grandmother's own simple house does not have one of its own.

"Barack's done extremely well and we're very proud of him," Auma Obama said when asked for a reaction to the losses on Tuesday. "This is like a football match. The game continues."

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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