Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain opposes a planned Tennessee mosque that has been the subject of protests and legal challenges. Cain didn’t bring up the controversial facility in a campaign rally on Thursday, but told reporters afterward that he’s concerned about the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro.
“It is an infringement and an abuse of our freedom of religion,” he said. “And I don’t agree with what’s happening, because this isn’t an innocent mosque.” The new mosque has been the subject of protests and counterprotests in the city about 35 miles southeast of Nashville.
A county judge ruled in May that the mosque construction does not harm the residents who sued to try to stop it, but he allowed them to move forward on claims the county violated an open meetings law in approving it.
Opponents have used the hearings to argue that the mosque is part of a plot to expand Islamic extremism in the U.S. Cain appeared to agree.
“It is another example of why I believe in American laws and American courts,” Cain said. “This is just another way to try to gradually sneak Shariah law into our laws, and I absolutely object to that.”
Shariah is a set of core principles that most Muslims recognize and a series of rulings from religious scholars. It covers many areas of life and different sects have different versions and interpretations of the code.
Cain previously stirred controversy by saying that he would not want a Muslim bent on killing Americans in his administration. Stephen Fotopulos, executive director of the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition, called Cain’s statements about the mosque ill informed.
“The vast majority of Tennesseans believe strongly in our country’s founding principles of religious freedom, and support the rights of all Murfreesboro residents to practice their faith without interrogation or persecution,” Fotopulos said in a statement.