I was appalled by the Islamophobia on parade at the first major Republican debate in New Hampshire on Monday night. Herman Cain, the Godfather's Pizza Mogul, made a spectacle of himself by denying that he ever said he wouldn't appoint a Muslim to his administration, only that he meant he wouldn't be comfortable working with Muslims, especially those who want to kill us. Are we supposed to rejoice that he has explained away his bias with this irrationality? And this is an African-American man talking! Whatever happened to content of character being more important than other superficial concerns?
Numerous African-American Christians have voluntarily converted to Islam. Is Mr. Cain telling them that they have no chance for a position in his government even if they are talented because he can't tell them apart from extremists? What is the litmus test for patriotism or loyalty to America? Will he appoint only those who are able to sing the National Anthem without flubbing the lines? Will he appoint Christians who don't vote, who duck jury duty with flimsy excuses, who don't know the Bill of Rights or the Constitution because he doesn't feel threatened by them and because he thinks being Christian is proof enough of devotion to America and ability to serve in public office?
Mr. Cain, also obsessed with the notion that Sharia law could supersede the American Constitution, has said that Muslims should not serve in the federal courts. Second and third generation Muslims, born and brought up in this country, graduate with plaudits from some of the most prestigious law schools in America. These students know nothing at all of Sharia law, much to the consternation of the Imams who preside over their mosques, and Mr. Cain wouldn't give them a shot at the federal courts just in case they turn out to be Manchurian candidates, susceptible to the adroit manipulations of Sharia devotees. It is frightening that Mr. Cain's star is now on the rise and all the other candidates on the debate stage did not outright condemn this man for his blather.
Newt Gingrich, was no better than Mr. Cain. It is laughable that Mr. Gingrich thinks Times Square bomber Faisal Shazad's confession in court that he did not mean his oath of allegiance to the U.S. when he became a citizen is an example of general Muslim perfidy. With whom are Mr. Cain and Mr. Gingrich trying to score political points? Surely they intend to stir those who demonize Muslims and blame all of America's ills on foreigners, non-Christians, illegal immigrants — anyone except they themselves. Surely they intend to demagogue their way into votes from the sector of our society that imagines if Muslims, illegal immigrants and other foreigners are excluded, deported or eliminated then and only then will America prosper. The crowd that preaches this intolerance will be the last to run out and pick our fruits, lay our roads or wash dishes in our restaurants. It is also the crowd that will be the first to line up outside Walmart for the cheap made in China goods. But Mr. Gingrich, a sophisticated professor, book writer and historian, will play to this crowd because he thinks this will make him a viable Republican candidate for the presidency.
Although Mitt Romney touted America's tolerance when faced with the Muslim question, he did not assert emphatically that all talented comers, regardless of religion, should have a crack at cabinet posts and that Mr. Gingrich and Mr. Cain are wrong to spin it otherwise. The front runner of the Republican Party was on the defensive, and though as a Mormon he should feel the pain of marginalized average Muslims, he played it safe, making bland and general remarks that won't get him in trouble with the patriots of the Republican Party — fervent believers in American exceptionalism as a white and Christian virtue.
Usha Nellore, Bel Air