GOP Presidential Contender Herman Cain's comments on Islam have taken a consistently negative tone. Back in March, he made statements that he would be unwilling to appoint Muslims to his cabinet. More recently he's come out in opposition to a Tennessee mosque and also said Americans should have the right to ban Islamic houses of worship in their local communities. But now, it seems, Cain has had a change of heart.
On Wednesday, the former Godfather's Pizza CEO met with a small group of Muslim leaders at All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS) in Sterling, Virginia. While his campaign had previously announced plans to hold the meeting, officials provided few details both before and after. Robert Marro, a board member at ADAMS, though, told Politico that he believes Cain left the meeting with an entirely different view on both Islam and mosques. Marro explains:
“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."
Marro continues, offering his hopes that the presidential candidate doesn't advocate for the banning of mosques any longer:
“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.”
If Marro is correct, this will indicate a major change in Cain's public statements about Islam. Not long ago (back in June), the candidate fiercely defended himself amid controversy over statements saying he wouldn't have Muslims in his administration. In addressing the issue, he yelled at a TPM reporter.
Following this week's meeting, Cain released a statement to reporters. While he did not necessarily repudiate his past comments, he did offer an apology for offending Muslims. Additionally, he expressed regret for betraying his "commitment to the U.S. Constitution":
“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.”
Considering that Cain was still discussing his controversial views on Islam just days ago (watch the video, below), this apology is somewhat of a surprise. If genuine, it showcases a change of heart that has arisen unexpectedly:
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/v/KXY3I5DNNtU?version=3&hl=en_US expand=1]
Following both the meeting and his public statement, the media will likely be examining, with scrutiny, how Cain continues to discuss Islam on the campaign trail. People -- even candidates -- are certainly entitled to become enlightened, change their viewpoints and the like.
Perhaps these events will usher in a new era in his relationship with the Muslim community.