Washington (CNN) - A leading Muslim advocacy group accused potential presidential candidate Herman Cain of spewing "bigoted speech" Monday following remarks he made at a conservative conference last weekend.
While attending the Conservative Principles Conference last weekend in Iowa, Cain told a reporter- if he became president – he would not appoint a Muslim to his cabinet or as a federal judge.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) expressed outrage on Monday, saying Cain's words show how "right wing" conservatives are currently engaging in Muslim bashing.
"Even post 9/11 you didn't have this level of mainstreaming of anti-Muslim hate as you have now," said Ibrahim Hooper, National Communications Director for CAIR.
Cain's comments came in response to a question from a reporter for liberal-leaning Think Progress about potentially appointing a Muslim in a Cain administration.
"No, I will not," Cain responded. "And here's why. There is this creeping attempt, there is this attempt to gradually ease Sharia law and the Muslim faith into our government. It does not belong in our government. This is what happened in Europe. And little by little, to try and be politically correct, they made this little change, they made this little change. And now they've got a social problem that they don't know what to do with hardly."
Sharia law is derived from the Quran, the holy book of Islam. It informs Muslims with rules on how to live their everyday lives – including how to fast and how to pray. Some Muslim countries use Sharia law as a basis for their laws, particularly concerning crimes against Allah, against society and crimes of revenge.
Cain continued by recounting a question he'd recently received.
"I was asked, 'What is the role of Islam in America?' I thought it was an odd question. I said, 'The role of Islam in America is for those that believe in Islam to practice it and leave us alone. Just like Christianity. We have a First Amendment. And I get upset when the Muslims in this country - some of them – try to force their Sharia law onto the rest of us.'"
Cain mentioned anti-Sharia law legislation that passed in Oklahoma, last year. Other states have also taken up such measures.
In criticizing Cain's comments, Hooper characterized them as going "even beyond the almost routine Muslim-bashing we see coming from the right wing of the political spectrum."
Hooper was asked to specifically address Cain's assertion, echoed by other conservatives, that some Muslims are trying to invoke Sharia law into the United States.
"It's a manufactured controversy," Hooper said. "There is nothing to it. It would be laughable if it weren't having such a negative impact on the lives of Muslim Americans."
"There are millions of American Muslims that are just as much 'Us,' as he [Cain] is."
Cain's communications director, Ellen Carmichael, stressed to CNN that Cain "believes that everyone in this country has the right to practice whatever religion they choose."
And she tried to re-characterize Cain's comments.
"Just as he would never appoint a Catholic who is loyal to the Pope before he or she is loyal to the Constitution, Mr. Cain would never appoint a Muslim who believes Sharia law trumps our U.S. Constitution," Carmichael said.
"Anyone who is in the business of making laws, or interpreting laws, should use the Constitution and nothing else."
And she addressed CAIR's criticism of Cain, an African-American.
"The claim that he is bigoted – when he himself has lived the majority of his childhood and young adult life under segregation – is pretty baseless."
–Follow Shannon Travis on Twitter: @ShanTravisCNN
Not unlike what the NRA has done with the 2nd amendment.
The truth is a powerful thing, God speed Herman Cain, you are the MAN!
Well, get in line behing the NAACP, LULAC, and ACLU. I don't think he said anything offensive, just what he thought. It was not bigotry, it was a statement. Get real people.
Call me a bigot, too. I'm with Herman on this one.
That is a "bigoted" statement. Either we have freedom of religion in this country or we don't. Sounds as though Cain doesn't think so. I view freedom of religion to mean to worship as one pleases, pure and simple.
Yes, the European embrace of sharia law undoubtedly explains France's outlawing of the burqa, among other similar laws enacted in many EU countries. Cain is an ignorant religionist. Discrimination based upon religion is as repugnant as race, gender or sexual-preference-based discrimination. Shameful such a man is part of America's government.
Why does CNN consider CAIR a legitimate operation, aren't they tied in with Hamas?
I'd vote for Cain.
Ah, the GOP we've come to know and love: Preaching bigotry, hate, intolerance, paranoia and the untouchable Christian faith.
Hey Trump move over! It appears Herman wants to join the GOP's nuttiest candidates for president, along with Sarah, Michelle and you.
Does Cain's communications director, Ellen Carmichael, realize how unthinking, prejudiced and – dare I say – racist it is to assume that someone can't be racist because they have lived under segregation?
Sounds like Cain's whole staff are a bunch of morons!
so wait. just because you're black and lived under segregation that makes you incapable of being bigoted? absurd.
Interesting that he would only appoint those who put the Constitution above all else, but yet many conservatives are against gay marriage and/or gay adoption, neither of which are banned in the Constitution. If the Constitution is the last word, why can't I get married?
The answer: the Constitution is only the last word when it's convenient.
Does this mean Catholics who are either elected or appointed for government positions, cannot advocate against Roe vs Wade? There is a Church Law that goes against that part of the Constitution's Law. I guess all Catholics have to leave the Judiciary, Senate and House since the Church Law they follow is against abortion and many Catholics I know (even some elected and/or appointed people) believe the Catholic Church's Law should trump that part of the Constitution.
What is seriously wrong with these people? It is extremely sad that they are playing to the lowest common denominator, aka, the Tea Party.
I agree 100% with what Cain said regarding his explanation. "There is this creeping ...".
I agree also with Mark from Louisiana, it really seems that CNN is very much tied in now with Hamas in the name of free speech. Enough defending religion that doesn't have any tolerance in the name of tolerance
Cain, take a look at Christian history:
Forced conversion of native Americans
Westboro Baptist Church
With a track record like that and by your reasoning, no one who says they are a Christian should not be allowed to work in government.
The comment that just because Mr Cain was subjected to bigotry, he would not be a bigot, is absolutely ridiculous. The are plenty of Jews who hate blacks, and plenty of blacks who hate Jews, even though both groups have been subject to bigotry.
So you agree that it is alright to discriminate against a person for a job because of their religion? Then you are a bigot. This the same logic from 1960 when people were told not to vote for JFK because the Pope would be running the White House?
When given a choice, I would think most Americans would prefer a mosque in their community as opposed to the Westboro Baptist Church.
Another Republican trying to stir up controversy and divide our country.
Because all REPUBLICAN POLICIES ARE PROVEN FAILURES!
The GOP has NOTHING to offer our country – NOTHING!!!!!!
Cain's stupid remarks are just another example of how totally bereft that group is of not only ideas, but mentally sound "leaders."
So, Mr. Cain is simply saying religious affiliation is preference for job consideration. How rational is that thought? Just think if everyone thought that way. This guy is so lost.
Cain is a fool who should look in the mirror. There are plenty of people in the conservative movement who wouldn't want him either. Somebody should tell that idiot Cain that if conservatives always had there way he would be picking cotton instead of having the opportunity to show how stupid he is.
Wow. Just change the word "Muslim" to "black" or "woman" or "Jew". Bigotry is bigotry no matter what side of the fence you're on.
I'm still waiting to see an American jurisdiction where there is a serious effort to put Sharia law into effect. This is a manufactured crisis with many states banning Sharia when no one with an ounce of sanity is proposing it.
If you follow his logic consistently, he should also ban from office all fundamentalist Christians because they seek to impose the Bible over the Constitution. That would end initiatives such as bans on family planning and promoting creationism.
But then, his religious bans are for all religions other than HIS!
I agree with him.