Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain has a proven track record of open hostility towards Muslims and Islam. Cain, founder of Godfather's Pizza, remains a long-shot for the Republican nomination. He has often polled in the bottom half and his fundraising has been undistinguished from most of the field. Recently, however, his popularity among Republicans has increased, especially in the West. Last weekend, he trounced other Republican presidential candidates in a straw poll taken at the Western Conservative Summit in Denver, receiving an overwhelming 48 percent of the total vote. Cain gained fame and notoriety early on in the presidential race when he declared that he "wouldn't be comfortable" appointing a Muslim to a cabinet position. Later, Cain amended this when he said on the Glenn Beck show that he'd mandate a loyalty oath for Muslims and only Muslims. (In fact, all presidential appointees already have to swear allegiance to the United States and the federal Constitution regardless of race, religion or any other criterion.) And more recently still in an interview with Fox News' Chris Wallace, Cain voiced his support for community efforts to block the construction of mosques. But couldn't any community then say we don’t want a mosque in our community?" Wallace asked. "Yes, they have the right to do that," Cain replied. Cain continued that the opposition to the mosque in Tennessee, which was the focus of the discussion, is due to "objecting to the fact that Islam is both a religion and a set of laws, sharia law," and added, "That's the difference between any one of our other traditional religions where it's just about religious purposes." But after a meeting with American Muslims, Cain has adopted a markedly different tone and, albeit not expressly amending any of his past positions, has nonetheless issued an apology to the community. "While I stand by my opposition to the interference of shariah 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. 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," Cain said. The meeting was quietly set up with the All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS) Center in Sterling, Virginia. ADAMS board member Robert Marro spoke to POLITICO. Marro told Politico that he and the other members had been to able to impress upon Cain that he'd been "getting information from people that maybe had some other agendas in mind." "I think he left the meeting with an entirely different view of what Muslims are and what mosques do," Marro added. "If he was expecting to see secret nooks and crannies where people are plotting nefarious things, he would have been highly surprised to find there is nothing like that in ours — or other mosques across the country." After the meeting Marro says he believes Cain has a new understanding of Muslims. "I would be flabbergasted if he ever repeated those statements and said that communities should be allowed to ban mosques. I think that the meeting today has changed his mind 100 percent. From the tenor of the conversation, I can’t see him repeating such things," Marro concluded. Cain has been invited by ADAMS to attend a Friday sermon and meet the congregation, and as a Baptist minister to give his own sermon. Cain's statement was "as close to a heartfelt and sincere apology that I’ve seen from any politician anywhere," Marro said.
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