(Photo: Reuters / Hyungwon Kang)
Republican presidential hopeful Herman Cain apologized to Muslim leaders Wednesday for comments he made about banning mosques and Islamic places of worship that he accused were sneaking Sharia law into the U.S.
While campaigning in his former home state of Tennessee earlier this month, the ex-CEO of Godfather's Pizza had told reporters that plans for an Islamic center in Murfreesboro was "an infringement and an abuse of our freedom of religion." He had said that he was against the mosque being built because "it isn't an innocent mosque" and believed that the Islamic center was being used as "another way to try to gradually sneak Sharia law into our laws."
Sharia laws are guidelines derived from the Quran, the Muslim holy book, and various teachings from Mohammed, the Islamic prophet.
After his meeting with the Muslim group in Sterling, Va., Wednesday, Cain said he was still against Sharia law in the U.S. but was "truly sorry" for offending any Muslim Americans.
“While I stand by my opposition to the interference of Sharia law into the American legal system, I remain humble and contrite for any statements I have made that might have caused offense to Muslim Americans and their friends,” Cain said in the statement.
“I am truly sorry for any comments that may have betrayed my commitment to the U.S. Constitution and the freedom of religion guaranteed by it. Muslims, like all Americans, have the right to practice their faith freely and peacefully.”
According to Cain's campaign team, it was the Baptist minister's idea to host the low-key meeting with the four leaders at the All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS) Center in Virginia, one of the largest mosques in the area. However, neither Cain nor his team have been very forthcoming with details about the meeting.
ADAMS Center board member Robert Marro told Politico.com that Cain seemed sincere in his apology and that he believed the politician had "changed his mind 100 percent."
“I think he left the meeting with an entirely different view of what Muslims are and what mosques do,” Marro told Politico.com. “I would be flabbergasted if he ever repeated those statements and said that communities should be allowed to ban mosques."
Marro also revealed that Cain was invited to give a sermon on a non-political topic at some later date. Cain, a married father of two, serves as associate pastor at Antioch Baptist Church North in Atlanta.
Some Americans keeping an eye on the 2012 campaign field have expressed concern about Cain's comments and think it somewhat ironic that a Christian and African-America would speak insensitively about an American minority and its right to freedom of religion.
Dr. Richard D. Land, executive editor of The Christian Post, wrote in a recent op-ed that Cain's comments about local communities having a right to ban mosques "should have caused a bigger controversy than it has."
"It should always be a 'big deal' when someone running for the highest elected office in the country is confused about the U.S. Constitution and especially the Bill of Rights," Land wrote, adding that the rights presented in the Constitution "are there first and foremost to protect minorities from having their rights disregarded by the majority."
Land added in his op-ed, "Muslims have a constitutionally protected and guaranteed right to have places of worship where they live under the free exercise clause of the First Amendment."