The change of heart is a time-honored part of American political theater. As public sentiments (read: polling) change, politicians often find a way to alter their positions through seemingly heart-felt rhetoric. But there are rare occasions when the change of heart is real. And according to one of the Muslim community members Herman Cain visited with Wednesday, the Republicans newfound respect for Islam is completely genuine.
“He seemed genuinely surprised,” Robert Marro, a trustee at the ADAMS Center mosque in Northern Virginia told TPM. “It was almost like he was saying, ‘I should’ve known better.’”
What caused the presidential candidate most recently associated with raising the specter of Sharia to change his tune? Marrow said Cain was struck by connection between American Muslims of today and Cain’s fellow African Americans from the past.
The story touched Cain’s childhood memories, Marro said.
“He said, ‘when I was growing up, they always said it was some renegade black person who did wrong,’” Marro recalled. “One of the things that he said a number of times: there’s a great deal of common ground between us.”
Cain had questions of his own about the faith. Marro said he asked if Muslim leaders in America really are pushing Sharia on the U.S., a common thread among some on the right. It’s the kind of thing Marro says he’s heard before.
“He was getting a lot misinformation,” Marro said. The same type of thing happens a lot, he said. He pointed to poll numbers that show a large number of Americans have a negative view of Islam without actually having connected with Muslims.
Making that connection was Cain, Marro said. He told TPM the campaign reached out to ADAMS Center last weekend, with the final details of the meeting coming together Tuesday morning. Things went so well Wednesday when the group met at ADAMS that mosque officials offered Cain — a devout Baptist and experienced preacher — the chance to come back and give a sermon to the ADAMS congregation.
For Cain’s part, he put out a long and contrite statement after the meeting that reaffirmed his concerns about Sharia but also offered an apology “to Muslim Americans and their friends.”
It was a meeting that may change the trajectory — or at least the public image — of Cain’s run for president. Marro said it’s the kind of thing that can change minds, too.
“Come to the horse’s mouth,” he said. “If you think [mosques] are hotbeds of terrorism, come visit.”
“We not only have nothing to hide,” Marro added, “we welcome it.”