Rep. Keith Ellison Calls Out Herman Cain’s Religious Bigotry

The Muslim American lawmaker warns that Cain's rhetoric may be a political strategy with awful consequences.

By Jamilah King Jul 22, 2011

Rep. Keith Ellison, the Muslim lawmaker who tearfully defended his faith this spring, has a question for Islamophobe GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain: Why is he trying distinguish himself as the religious bigot of the presidential race of 2011 and 2012?

Ellison posed the question in an interview with this week. Cain is a conservative Tea Party favorite and former CEO who’s positioning himself to be the country’s second black president. He’s made headlines week after week with his denouncements against Muslims, including his latest remark that communities in the U.S. should have the right to ban mosques.

Yet Ellison questions why Cain would willingly play into such religious bigotry. As he told’s Justin Elliot:

It seems to be a strategic move on their part. I don’t know if Herman Cain is just a sick individual, or if he is using bigotry to strategically move his campaign forward. But in either case it’s reprehensible that he just will not relent with this bigotry and that he actually thinks it’s going to enhance his chances to get the Republican nomination. If I were a Republican, I would be outraged. Anyone who cares about religious liberty and inclusion has got to be offended by Herman Cain.

Ellison admits that he hasn’t spoken to Cain directly, but notes that it likely wouldn’t make a difference since the presidential candidate’s bigotry seems to be a strategic ploy to win votes.

Take him — and you can even add Newt Gingrich to the list — these guys are not without resources. If they want to know something, they can find it out. If they want access to people ti give them information, they can get it. They’re saying this even though they know what they’re saying is likely to antagonize and inflame people. I have to say, it’s a scary prospect. A lot of times ideas take years to germinate. But if you keep whipping up hate and hysteria against a religious minority long enough, catastrophic things can happen.

Ellison makes an important point. After all, it was only last summer that the country was rocked by a series of anti-Muslim hate crimes.