News / USA

Republican US Presidential Candidates' Views of Islam Stir Controversy

Businessman Herman Cain speaks during the first New Hampshire Republican presidential debate in Manchester, N.H., June 13, 2011.
Businessman Herman Cain speaks during the first New Hampshire Republican presidential debate in Manchester, N.H., June 13, 2011.

Some candidates for the U.S. presidential election next year have been making statements about Islam and its American adherents that are stirring controversy. Civil rights groups warn that the candidates are pushing anti-Muslim views into the mainstream.

Candidate - Cain views

No one has gone as far as Herman Cain.  The former chairman of a pizza chain was one of the lesser known Republican candidates - that is, until a few months ago - when he said that, if he was president, he would not like to have a Muslim working for him.  At a debate in New Hampshire several weeks ago, Cain said that would make him uncomfortable. "And I would not be comfortable because you have peaceful Muslims and then you have militant Muslims, those that are trying to kill us," he said.

Cain denied that he is anti-Muslim, but he argued that a Muslim applying to work in his administration would be subject to a different level of screening than someone of another faith.  Another republican candidate, Newt Gingrich, suggested during the New Hampshire Republican debate that Muslims seeking a job in an administration he leads would be subject to special loyalty tests.

Candidate - Gingrich views

“Now, I just want to go out on a limb here. I'm in favor of saying to people, 'If you're not prepared to be loyal to the United States, you will not serve in my administration, period," Gingrich stated.

Critics say such views are discriminatory.  One such critic is Haris Tarin of the Muslim Public Affairs Council. "... what they're doing is they're trying to use an issue that most Americans don't know about to try to instigate curiosity so that people can potentially vote for them," he said.

Not all the candidates single out Muslims in this way. Mitt Romney, the Republican front runner so far, recalled at the debate that America was founded on the principle of religious tolerance.  Romney belongs to the Mormon faith, which some evangelical Christians consider to be heretical.

Views, from the fringes to mainstream

Tarin is concerned that anti-Muslim views could become more acceptable to the broader public after being aired during a debate among presidential candidates on the Cable News Network, CNN.

"We're very worried, because these views have been consistently found in the fringes.  Now they're being viewed on CNN and debated on a nationally televised debate of Republican nominees.  And so when it moves from the fringes to the homes of mainstream America we get very worried," Tarin noted.

There is evidence that may already be happening.  A recent report on Islamophobia by the Council on American-Islamic Relations cited a 2010 poll which found that one-third of Americans believe adherents of Islam should not be allowed to run for president.

The issue got further attention when Congress’ House Committee on Homeland Security conducted hearings in March and again this month on al-Qaida’s reported attempts to recruit followers among the Muslim-American community. The committee chairman, Republican Peter King of New York, said the hearings were necessary to protect America from terrorist attack.

And according to the Muslim Public Affairs Council and the American Civil Liberties Union, at least 25 state legislatures are considering proposals aimed at banning the Muslim Sharia code of law from being cited in U.S. courts.

9/11 terror attacks, plots - American views changing

Anti-foreigner sentiment has come and gone in America because of its development over the centuries as a nation of immigrants.

Steve Grand is a Middle East expert at the Brookings Institution."There's a long tradition in the United States, unfortunately, of fearing the unknown and fearing those who seem different from us," he said. "And then eventually we come to know and understand those people and they become part of the American mainstream and American culture."

But 10 years after al-Qaida’s 9-11 terror attacks in New York and several foiled terror plots since then, the prospects for Muslim Americans may be different than America’s previous waves of immigrants.

Grand concedes that while earlier immigrants became part of the mainstream fairly quickly, Muslim Americans may find that process takes much longer.


Jerome Socolovsky

Jerome Socolovsky is the award-winning religion correspondent for the Voice of America, based in Washington. He reports on the rapidly changing faith landscape of the United States, including interfaith issues, secularization and non-affiliation trends and the growth of immigrant congregations.

You May Like

Tired of Waiting, South Africans Demand Change ‘Now’

With chronic poverty and lack of basic services largely fueling recent xenophobic attacks, many in Rainbow Nation say it’s time for government to act More

Challenges Ahead for China's Development Plans in Pakistan

Planned $46 billion in energy and infrastructure investments in Pakistan are aimed at transforming the country into a regional hub for trade and investment More

Audio 'Forbidden City' Revisits Little Known Era of Asian-American Entertainment

Little-known chapter of entertainment history captured in 80s documentary is revisited in new digitally remastered format and book More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
X
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs