Showing an extreme ignorance of Islam, the Constitution, and religion in general on Fox News Sunday, presidential candidate and former CEO Herman Cain stated that communities have a “right” to ban mosques as Islam “combines church and state” and is a “set of laws.” Even with his pattern of Islamophobia, including saying in the past that he “will not” appoint a Muslim to his cabinet or the federal bench, this is frightening and extreme. He objects to anyone in American public office being sworn in on the Quran saying that anyone in his administration will be sworn in on the bible.

The fear of those who oppose the building of an Islamic center in Tennessee is that allowing mosque construction might create not just religious but civil institutions of law that will allow Sharia law into the courts. When Mr. Cain was pressed about his position on Fox News Sunday he fell back on his frequent refrain, “American laws in American courts” implying that the construction of the Islamic center was somehow opposed to that principle. Sharia law infecting the American legal system is the core rallying cry at the moment of the anti-Islam movement. Mr. Cain’s concern about Muslim appointments seems to stem from his belief that, “there is this creeping attempt … to gradually ease Sharia law and the Muslim faith into our government.” He has stated he would appoint a Muslim who would disavow Sharia law, but added that he does not know any Muslims willing to do so.  This shows a severe misunderstanding of both Islam and the Constitution. Article VI of the Constitution protects from religious tests to hold public office, exactly what Mr. Cain seems to be is proposing.

Luckily, critics of Islamophobia and supporters of religious freedom are speaking up. From Southern Baptist leader Richard Land, a pro-life conservative, who came out against Mr. Cain’s words and said  he “would respectfully encourage him to read the First amendment to the Constitution.” To progressive columnist Eugene Robinson who wrote a piece in response to Mr. Cain’s words entitled, “Stand up to Herman Cain’s Bigotry” where he shows how ludicrous Mr. Cain’s fear of Sharia law is by pointing that it would, “[make] as much sense to worry that the Amish will force us all to commute by horse and buggy.”

Interfaith Alliance president and State of Belief host Rev. Welton Gaddy wrote a letter to Cain requesting,

“Please, for the sake of our democracy and for the integrity of religion, I urge you to temper your rhetoric, to cease your attacks on Islam.  Though it surely is not your intention, such sweeping attacks and gross as well as erroneous generalizations threaten all American Muslims including those you recognize as “a peaceful group” and demean the historically documentable fairness of the American people.”

Islamophobic sentiment scares me, but the responses that Mr. Cain’s latest statements evoked and the constant signs of progress that do happen even in a time when so much ignorance exists give me hope. I find it comforting to remember that even at the height of the misinformation and misunderstanding around the Park 51 controversy (the “Ground Zero Mosque”) 76% of Americans said that they supported the construction of a Mosque or Islamic center in their hometowns. Fear of Islam will need to be battled using knowledge over ignorance and by standing up for our fellow citizens. Hopefully we can all work to reduce Islamophobic rhetoric in the campaign and sentiment as a nation.

For a discussion between Rev. Gaddy and the Director of Policy and Programs at Human Rights First, Ted Stahnke, which covers Tensions around Islam in America click here  (Please note, this is an extended version of the interview originally broadcast nationwide.)

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Showing 6 comments
  • Goldberg

    It’s a relief to see someone stand up to Cain’s insanity. After all, just because a person won’t disavow wife beating, the rape and slaughter of infidel women, the killing of Jews and Christians, slavery, public stoning, the levy of extra taxes on non-Muslims, disinheritance of women, not allowing women to testify in court, not allowing women to divorce, the forced marriage of girls–he should not be disqualified from holding an appointed position under a President Cain.

    Either Sharia is a part of Islam (and thus, Islam advocates the aforementioned atrocities) or it is not a part of Islam (and thus, not subject to the First Amendment).

  • Schreiner

    Goldberg—well said!!

  • Reson

    @Goldberg

    Should Christians “disavow” the bible because it includes the stoning of children and hundreds of other “atrocities” ?

  • Goldberg

    Reson:

    First, you do realize that Sharia is not the holy book of Muslims, right? That would be the Qur’an. Sharia is derivative of the Qur’an and the Sunnah. (But your point that the atrocities committed by Muslims on an hourly basis is not a corruption of their religion, is well taken.)

    Next, I’d be curious as to what you consider the “hundreds” of atrocities you believe Christians have in their Bible. Nonetheless, John 8: 1-11 may help you with an answer as to the Christian approach. While you didn’t ask about Jewish tradition, it is restricted by the Mishnah to such a degree to make it completely unworkable in practice (Sanhedrin 1:4, e.g.) and discouraged in philosophy: “A Sanhedrin which executes a man every seven years is murderous” (Mishna Makkot 1:10).

    Thus, neither Christian nor Jew would ever need disavow anything–their traditions do not countenance the stoning of children, or even adults, for that matter.

    Compare that to the mainstream Muslim position that Sharia must be imposed. Full stop. There is simply no major (or even minor, for that matter) congregation of Muslims who do not publicly hold out that it is the duty of the Muslim is to strengthen the Ummah in order to restore the Caliphate, etc. This is to be accomplished by force, if necessary. You don’t have to read an ancient text to find “atrocities” to be taken out of context, just a newspaper. (Find me a Christian or Jewish congregation that seeks to convert by force in the last two hundred years, and I’ll show you two dozen toothless hillbillies meeting in an un-airconditioned trailer.)

    Just bear in mind, the Christian approach to dealing with those who differ from them is to try to convince them to try a better way; the Jewish approach is to mind their own business; and the Muslim approach is to cut off their head and post the video on You Tube. You tell me which you prefer to be Attorney General.

  • Reson

    Goldberg,

    I am very familiar with Makkot and the commentary on it. As someone who has spent a great deal of time with that particular text, it is nice to hear another person who has found how the death penalty was seen as a bad idea by our forefathers centuries ago.
    To your greater message, your comments reveal a fundamental prejudice and ignorance about American Muslims. Try meeting with them, talking with them, actually see if you can make friends with a Muslim family and then tell their children that there is no way for them to have any faith in their religion and still serve in President’s cabinet. Tell them they cannot possibly have a modern, nuanced view of their faith’s historical laws. There are extremists out there, I am not apologizing for or explaining their actions, but the assertions you and Mr. Cain feel comfortable positing about the entire Muslim community and faith are dangerous and ill-informed.

  • Goldberg

    Reson:

    We’ll just have to disagree as to our relative states of information.

    For your dignity’s sake, though, please don’t tip the porter on the train to Treblinka. He won’t get you a better gas chamber.

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