A decade after 9/11, Muslim-baiting has become de rigueur for Republican politicians -- especially those who aspire to the party's 2012 presidential nomination.
Fear of Islam among the Republican Party's base -- the very voters GOP White House candidates will be wooing during the 2012 primary season -- has been primed for years by the so-called anti-jihad industry. It was further inflamed by 2010's "ground zero mosque" controversy, and the subsequent wave of anti-sharia legislation. Also lurking in the background, crucially, is the false rumor that President Obama is a Muslim -- a rumor that, according to one August 2010 poll, 46 percent of Republicans believe.
All of this is forcing Republican presidential hopefuls into a game of Islamophobic one-upmanship in which crossing the line is inevitable. As the race unfolds, we'll be keeping tabs on how the candidates try to differentiate themselves from each other -- and stand out in the eyes of their target voters -- on this issue with a regularly updated list that ranks the most extreme instances of campaign trail Muslim-baiting. So make sure to bookmark this page and check back frequently. (And if you see an example that belongs on the list, send an email to email@example.com.)
Asked by an interviewer if he would appoint a Muslim to his future cabinet, or to a judgeship, Cain was candid: "No, I would not. And here’s why. There is this creeping attempt, there is this attempt to gradually ease Shariah law and the Muslim faith into our government. It does not belong in our government." His spokeswoman later tried to explain, but not retract, the statement. [3/26/11]
Cain explained to Glenn Beck that he would require potential Muslim appointees to prove their loyalty to the Constitution -- but would not apply the same test to members of other religious groups.[6/8/11]
While at the forefront of the fight against the so-called "ground zero mosque" in 2010, Gingrich released a statement calling for a ban on all mosques near ground zero "so long as there are no churches or synagogues in Saudi Arabia." [6/21/10]
Santorum, who once explained that the Quran "is only written in Islamic," told a New Hampshire political dinner in March that Muslim immigrants in the U.S. left their home countries "because of Shariah law," adding that "Shariah law is incompatible with American jurisprudence and our Constitution." [3/11/11]
Palin was one of the first prominent Republicans to come out against the planned Islamic community center in lower Manhattan, a position memorialized in her famous tweet: "Ground Zero Mosque supporters: doesn't it stab you in the heart, as it does ours throughout the heartland? Peaceful Muslims, pls refudiate." [7/18/10]
When the American Prospect reported in March that a Minnesota agency under then-Gov. Pawlenty had created a Shariah-compliant mortgage program, team Pawlenty went into panic mode. Despite the fact that the initiative was a mundane attempt to help Muslim home-buyers, Pawlenty's spokesman quickly spread word to reporters that the governor was horrified by the program. "As soon as Gov. Pawlenty became aware of the issue, he personally ordered it shut down," his spokesman said. "Fortunately, only about three people actually used the program before it was terminated at the governor's direction." [3/25/11]
Mitt Romney/Ron Paul
Himself a member of a minority religious group, Romney broke with Herman Cain at the second GOP debate and explicitly rejected Shariah fear-mongering. "Well, first of all, of course, we're not going to have Shariah law applied in U.S. courts. That's never going to happen. We have a Constitution and we follow the law," he said. [6/14/11]
Paul vigorously attacked opponents of the planned Islamic community center near ground zero during the national debate over the project in 2010. "Defending the controversial use of property should be no more difficult than defending the 1st Amendment principle of defending controversial speech," he said. "But many conservatives and liberals do not want to diminish the hatred for Islam--the driving emotion that keeps us in the wars in the Middle East and Central Asia." [8/20/10]
Gary Johnson/Jon Huntsman
These two candidates have so far been silent on issues related to Islam.
Huckabee said President Obama views the world differently than most Americans because, "Most of us grew up going to Boy Scout meetings and, you know, our communities were filled with Rotary Clubs, not madrassas." [3/2/11]
During a Fox appearance, Huckabee, an ordained Southern Baptist minister, complained about reports that a pair of Protestant churches had allowed local Muslims to use church facilities. Said Huckabee: "If the purpose of a church is to push forward the gospel of Jesus Christ, and then you have a Muslim group that says that Jesus Christ and all the people that follow him are a bunch of infidels who should be essentially obliterated, I have a hard time understanding that." [2/21/11]
As part of his charm campaign to win over the evangelical community, Trump sat for an interview with Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network. In addition to reiterating his belief that there is a "Muslim problem," he offered his view of the Quran. "The Quran is very interesting," said Trump. "A lot of people say it teaches love and there is a very big group of people who really understand the Quran far better than I do. I'm certainly not an expert, to put it mildly. But there's something there that teaches some very negative vibe." [4/12/11]