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

Mood Tense Ahead of Scotland Independence Vote

As race to persuade undecided voters continues, 'No' voters say they believe life in Scotland will slowly improve, 'Yes' vote not worth the risk More

South Africa’s 'Open Mosque' Admits Everyone, Including Critics

Open Mosque founder plans to welcome gay worshipers and allow women to lead prayers More

Ukrainian Activist in Despair About Future of Her Country

IrIna Dovgan, accused of being a spy and tortured by pro-Russian separatists, is appealing to UN Human Rights Council to support her country 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.
A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Wateri
X
September 17, 2014 8:44 PM
Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid