Among the many rumors circulating in the Islamic world, the claim that Neil Armstrong, the famous Astronaut, has become a Muslim seems to be one that will never die.
Hopefully, the following statement will help to put this claim at rest. Neil Armstrong participated in the Global Leadership Forum in Malaysia on 6 September 2005. The Star Malaysia, currently the most widely read English newspaper in Malaysia, took the occasion to interview him on his moon landing mission with Apollo 11. In the article, Armstrong recalls moon landing, published on 7 September 2005, both in print and online, one finds this statement:
Armstrong, 75, also denied he had heard the Muslim call to prayer on the moon and had converted to Islam.
The rest of this article, originally written in 1996 and updated a couple of times since then, documents the reasons why anyone would even ask Neil Armstrong such an odd question, and explains the necessity for clarifying this issue.
Mid November 1996 the following report reached us:
We have a very good Islamic community radio station here in Cape Town. The following story was told for the honest truth on our Muslim radio the other day: When Louis Armstrong and co. walked on the moon, they heard sounds in a strange language they did not understand. Only later, after returning to earth, did they realize that it was actually the azaan! I have seen a few mosques with powerful speaker systems, but wow, somebody down here certainly turned on the power on that day!
[Obviously the reference was supposed to be in regard to Neil Armstrong, the astronaut, not Louis Armstrong, the Jazz musician.]
This rumor also surfaces every other month or so on the Islamic newsgroup, examples of one of the more recent appearances:
Subject: Re: NEIL ARMSTRONG Muslim? From: "BB."
Date: 1996/08/26 Message-Id: <firstname.lastname@example.org> Organization: University of Canberra, Australia Newsgroups: soc.religion.islam On 20 Aug 1996 email@example.com wrote: > CAN SOMEONE PLEASE TELL ME IF IT TRUE THAT NEIL ARMSTRONG IS A MUSLIM?? Salam i heard that when he went to the moon he heard the Athan (call for prayer) so he heard it again on earth and he became a muslim, i read an article that he lives in lebanon now (my country) and his neighbours say he doesn't talk to anyone... he could have been so famous the second man on the moon is still famous now, but neil decided to live like this. Alah aalam (god knows). if anyone else know about him i'd like to know more. wassalam
Here two postings on the newsgroup soc.religion.islam in response to the question and statement by Muslims at least informed that it is a rumor, ... yet Gilberto reporting on some other rumor he heard on how the original rumor might have started (rumors about rumors, getting ever more complicated):
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (GSimp95605) Date: 1996/08/23 Message-Id: <email@example.com> Newsgroups: soc.religion.islam Asalam-alaikum, What I've heard (some time ago, in this group) is that Neil Armstrong went to Egypt, heard the adhan, said it was spacey" in an interview. And somehow, that got turned into a rather nice story about how he heard some strange sound when he was up in space, eventually found out that it was the adhan, and became Muslim because of the experience. To the best of my knowledge, he's not Muslim (allahu alim) Salam GIlberto
In article <firstname.lastname@example.org>, email@example.com (Mas'ud Ahmed Khan) writes: NO, this keeps popping up time and again, from what I gather Neil Armstrong is not and was never a Muslim, he lives in the US and is a bit of a recluse, he occasionally lectures. Someone told me that he explicitly denied being a Muslim and does not know how the rumour started. It is sad that some Muslims make up stories that have a snowball effect and sooner or later become a "fact" that Muslims boast about can you imagine what impression we give to those who know about Armstrong? wa'as-Salaam Mas'ud
In the following some statements about this issue, authorised by Mr. Armstrong, to speak on his behalf.
NEIL A. ARMSTRONG LEBANON, OHIO 45036 July 14,1983 Mr. Phil Parshall Director Asian Research Center International Christian Fellowship 29524 Bobrich Livonia, Michigan 48152 Dear Mr. Parshall: Mr. Armstrong has asked me to reply to your letter and to thank you for the courtesy of your inquiry. The reports of his conversion to Islam and of hearing the voice of Adzan on the moon and elsewhere are all untrue. Several publications in Malaysia, Indonesia and other countries have published these reports without verifi- cation. We apologize for any inconvenience that this incompetent journalism may have caused you. Subsequently, Mr. Armstrong agreed to participate in a telephone interview, reiterating his reaction to these stories. I am enclosing copies of the United States State Department's communications prior to and after that interview. Sincerely Vivian White Administrative Aide
Comments: In our possession is a photocopy of this letter which is identical in text to the above, except that the street address and phone number of Mr. Armstrong contained in that copy are deleted. The above also shows where this idea came from, that Mr. Armstrong supposedly lives in Lebanon. Yes, Lebanon is true, yet this "Lebanon" is not in the Middle East, but in the Midwest of the United States of America.
A statement by the US State Department sent to all embassies and consulates in the Islamic world:
P 04085 0Z MAR 83 ZEX FM SECSTATE WASHD C TO ALL DIPLOMATIC AND CONSULAR POSTS PRIORITY BI UNCLAS STATE 056309 FOLLOWING REPEAT SENT ACTION ALL EAST ASIAN AND PACIFIC DIPLOMATIC POSTS DTD MAR 02. QUOTE: UNCLAS STATE 056309 E.O. 12356: N/A TAGS: PREL, PGOV, US, ID SUBJECT: ALLEGED CONVERSION OF NEIL ARMSTRONG TO ISLAM --------------------------------------------- REF: JAKARTA 3281 AND 2374 (NOT ..) 1. FORMER ASTRONAUT NEIL ARMSTRONG, NOW IN PRIVATE BUSINESS, HAS BEEN THE SUBJECT OF PRESS REPORTS IN EGYPT, MALAYSIA AND INDONESIA (AND PERHAPS ELSEWHERE) ALLEGING HIS CONVERSION TO ISLAM DURING HIS LANDING ON THE MOON IN 1969. AS A RESULT OF SUCH REPORTS, ARMSTRONG HAS RECEIVED COMMUNICATIONS FROM INDIVIDUALS AND RELIGIOUS ORGANIZATIONS, AND A FEELER FROM AT LEAST ONE GOVERNMENT, ABOUT HIS POSSIBLE PARTICIPATION IN ISLAMIC ACTIVITIES. 2. WHILE STRESSING HIS STRONG DESIRE NOT TO OFFEND ANYONE OR SHOW DISRESPECT FOR ANY RELIGION, ARMSTRONG HAS ADVISED DEPARTMENT THAT REPORTS OF HIS CONVERSION TO ISLAM ARE INACCURATE. 3. IF POST RECEIVE QUERIES ON THIS MATTER, ARMSTRONG REQUESTS THAT THEY POLITELY BUT FIRMLY INFORM QUERYING PARTY THAT HE HAS NOT CONVERTED TO ISLAM AND HAS NO CURRENT PLANS OR DESIRE TO TRAVEL OVERSEAS TO PARTICIPATE IN ISLAMIC RELIGOUS ACTIVITIES.
Click here to view the scanned photocopy of this above note from the US State Department.
Furthermore, the following letter to the editor was printed in the Journal Arabia, The Islamic World Review, Issue June 1985/Ramadan 1405, page 5:
A MUSLIM OVER THE MOON?
Arabia is by far the superior newsmagazine regarding what is going on in the Muslim world today. Your reporting is extremely thorough and seeks to be as objective as possible. Your willingness to criticise political policies as well as religious happenings in the Muslim world is refreshing. As an American I would feel your slant on the West is basically fair.
It would be most helpful if you would dispel a misconception prevalent in almost all Muslim countries. From Morocco to the Philippines it is commonly believed that Neil Armstrong heard the Azan on the moon, converted to Islam and is now engaged in the full-time propagation of the Muslim faith.
The US State Department has issued a memo saying that the story about Armstrong's conversion was untrue. The memo said "While stressing his strong desire not so offend anyone or show disrespect for any religion, Armstrong has advised Department that reports of his conversion to Islam are inaccurate." The memo further says, "if post receives queries on this matter, Armstrong requests that they politely but firmly inform querying party that he has not converted to Islam and has no current plans or desires to travel overseas to participate in Islamic religious activities."
N.B. The memo was sent to all our diplomatic and consular posts.
Dr Phil Parshall Director, Asian Research Centre Manila, Philippines
Click here for a scanned image of this page in Arabia.
Sadly, as documented above, this rumor still goes round and round in the Islamic world, over a decade after it has been denied over and over again. Not only in mouth to mouth propaganda but it is even spread by Muslim radio stations.
Yet even when the Muslims tell their brothers that it is a false rumor, they are not convinced, the newest newsgroup tidbit is
Subject: Re: Neil Armstrong -first man on the moon! From: Farzad <firstname.lastname@example.org> Date: 1997/01/17 Message-Id: <32DF44F7.email@example.com> Newsgroups: alt.religion.islam > No it is false, it is a myth spread in Muslim world. Armstrong denies > this story. He is not Muslim ... He perfomed prayers in Turkey in the same masjid where Malcolm X prayed and huge crowd prayed behind him. salaams,
Is this rumor ever going to die? My question to Farzad would be (as to all others who spread the rumor): Were you there when he prayed in this masjid? -- No? Thought so.
Response the above: [Complaint], [Response]
But never shall they be satisfied ...
Anyway, this person gives at least some references for the rumors.
Subject: Re: Neil Armstrong - first man on the moon! From: firstname.lastname@example.org (M Damron) Date: 1997/02/02 Message-Id: <19970202002400.TAA19712@ladder01.news.aol.com> Newsgroups: alt.religion.islam I thought he did convert. As an American that converted to Islam I have come across this story in both Islamic and Non-Islamic sources. Two of these include the book A Muslim Primer by Ira Zepp and another book titled Defenders of God.
Without making any own claim as to its veracity:
The Jerusalem Christian Review (Volume 9, Issue 4) reports about a visit by Neil Armstrong as being a devout (Christian) believer (with more details in the full story).
Somebody sent me this response:
By the way, I heard from an authoritative source that Sheikh Omar Abdul Rahman has just announced that he has become an astronaut!
Rumors and Hoaxes
Answering Islam Home Page