This video, makes the following claim, as aired on Fox News:

[Obama] did bow to the Muslim King, while he did not do it to the British Queen of England, and by bowing he showed the world that "I am subservient, I do bow down to you as a Muslim King." Something that no other president has done with Saudi Arabia. [5:26]


... it made an American president, for the first time in history, bow to a Muslim King. [6:29]

The video makes many other claims, most of which are far too subjective to be worthy of consideration, let alone on-topic here.

I'm interested in only the following claim: Obama is the first U.S. president to bow to a Muslim King.

And I see two areas of easy contention. The first being the definition of a bow. Does the gesture shown in the video carry the significance of a "bow" in Muslim cultures?

And if what Obama did is considered a bow in the relevant culture, is he indeed the first president to have done it?

For bonus points, have other U.S. presidents bowed to other Muslim world leaders who did not carry the title of King?

  • 5
    To quote wiki: "In Islam, it is a sin to bow to anyone but God." - it is not a Muslim sign of deference between 2 people. Internationally, a bow can mean simply respect, sincerity, etc - not just deference or subservience. Feb 12, 2012 at 22:49
  • 14
    Wow. I watched as much as I could of that video (about 2 or 3 minutes). It has caused me some self-reflection and revelation! I've looked back at my own history and the topics I have ever talked about (which apparently, when taken out of context, is evidence that I hold them as sacred), and realised I am a Muslim! And a Jew! And a Christian! And a buddhist/athiest/lawyer/lesbian/politician/pro-sports-playing bar-tender. Hooray for lowering the bar for evidence!
    – Oddthinking
    Feb 13, 2012 at 0:40
  • 3
    As soon as you start searching on this, you come across claims that there is an established protocol establishing that US Presidents ought not to bow. Regrettably, they don't speak to that in the FAQ at the Office of the Chief of Protocol (state.gov/s/cpr). Presumably the Chief of Protocol simply lifts his or her eyebrows significantly as appropriate. Feb 13, 2012 at 1:40
  • 9
    Using the video's out-of-context quote-mining technique, I'm pretty sure someone could prove that Bill O'Reilly is a black lesbian.
    – Zano
    Feb 13, 2012 at 18:59
  • 6
    Makes about as much sense as accusing Nixon of being a commie because he was the first to recognise China.
    – matt_black
    Feb 14, 2012 at 23:11

1 Answer 1


George W Bush bowed to, hugged, kissed, and walked in the garden holding hands with that same Saudi king. So the answer is clearly no.

The bow occurred in January 2008, while receiving a medal from King Abdullah. The visit was reported by many news providers, including CNN and Fox News.

It is likely that other previous (and subsequent) Presidents have also exchanged various courtesies with foreign leaders, including Muslim ones.

  • 3
    Can you cite specific, reliable websites? At least some of the hits were to websites that aren't reliable sources.
    – Golden Cuy
    Dec 6, 2012 at 20:02
  • 7
    It looks like Bush is "bowing" because the king is about a put a medal on him / over his head.
    – ChrisW
    Dec 7, 2012 at 2:12
  • 4
    The bowing, as @ChrisW notes, doesn't look anything like a bow. But the hand-holding ones look more plausible, given there seem to be multiple takes from different positions and times.
    – Benjol
    Dec 7, 2012 at 12:52
  • 5
    @ChrisW : When you receive a medal it's a custom to bow. That's real bowing.
    – Christian
    Dec 7, 2012 at 16:28
  • 4
    @ChrisW But if we want to go down that road ("what even is a bow?"), a white house aid denied that Obama's movement was a bow.
    – tim
    Sep 27, 2019 at 13:26

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