A couple of weeks ago, presidential candidate Herman Cain caused a stir by declaring that Americans should be able to ban the construction of mosques. He justified this exception to the First Amendment by saying that Islam is “both a religion and a set of laws,” and its political component essentially neutralizes its status as a protected religion.
Cain arranged a meeting with a group of Muslim leaders at the All Dulles Area Muslim Society yesterday, and emerged with a significantly adjusted position.
“While I stand by my opposition to the interference of sharia law into the American legal system,” Cain said in a statement, “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 spoke highly of his meeting with Muslim leaders: “As I expected, we discovered we have much more in common in our values and virtues. In my own life as a black youth growing up in the segregated South, I understand their frustration with stereotypes. Those in attendance, like most Muslim Americans, are peaceful Muslims and patriotic Americans whose good will is often drowned out by the reprehensible actions of jihadists.”
In return, ADAMS Center board member Robert Marro said Cain’s statement was “as close to a heartfelt and sincere apology that I’ve seen from any politician anywhere.” I don’t know why he felt Cain had to be graded on a politician’s curve of sincerity. That’s pretty close to damning him with faint praise.
Of Cain’s experience at his facility, Marro said, “I think he left the meeting with an entirely different view of what Muslims are and what mosques do. 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.”
Is that really what you think Cain expected to find, Mr. Marro? Do you really think he was under the impression that every mosque is filled with secret passages, trap doors, and ninja training equipment? Learn to quit while you’re ahead, sir. When you’re trying to cultivate an atmosphere of mutual respect and hearty fellowship, avoid saying things that have to be “clarified” later.
Marro went on to invite Cain, who is a Baptist preacher, to return and address the ADAMS Center again.
Cain has been up front about admitting mistakes and errors before. That doesn’t excuse making the mistakes in the first place, especially when something as crucial as the freedom of religion is at stake, but it still speaks well of him.
A great deal of our current situation comes from decades of refusing to admit obvious errors and malfeasance. Politicians have a natural impulse to double down on disaster. The ability to admit error and apologize is born from humility, an important component of true leadership. Washington runs huge annual deficits of humility.