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