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Cain's message -- Muslims need not apply

By Dean Obeidallah, Special to CNN
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  • Dean Obeidallah: Candidate Cain has said he'd want loyalty oath from Muslims who work for him
  • He says Cain is either bigoted, ignorant or fear-mongering; he must be called out on this
  • He says at debate other candidates stood silent as Cain and Gingrich disparaged Muslims
  • Obeidallah: It's un-American and media, politicians must demand proof when such things are said

Editor's note: Dean Obeidallah is an award-winning comedian who has appeared on various TV shows including Comedy Central's "Axis of Evil" special, ABC's "The View," and CNN's "What the Week" and "The Joy Behar Show." He is executive producer of the annual New York Arab-American Comedy Festival and The Amman Stand Up Comedy Festival. Follow him on Twitter.

(CNN) -- Herman Cain, Republican presidential candidate and winner of this year's Arizona and Georgia Tea Party straw polls, has a campaign slogan: "Lets Get Real."

So I guess he was just keeping it real when he recently declared that he was not "comfortable" appointing an American-Muslim to his Cabinet or to a federal judgeship.

I guess it was just another mark of this realness when he announced last week that he would require a loyalty oath from any Muslim seeking a job in his administration, but would not require the same for Christians or Jews. Cain added that he has never personally met a Muslim who would take an oath disavowing sharia law--laws based on the Quran -- so it would appear that none could be qualified for a job in the Cain administration.

Inspired by Cain's keeping-it-real mantra, I am going to keep it real: Herman Cain is either a bigot, ignorant or simply a politician using fear mongering for political gain.

Regardless of his motivation, Cain is in essence posting a sign: "Muslims Need Not Apply."

Herman Cain explains stance on Muslims

My Italian grandparents encountered similar discrimination when they immigrated to the United States in the 1920s and were met with signs informing them: "Italians Need Not Apply," meaning they would not be hired simply because they were Italian.

And before them, Irish immigrants were infamously "welcomed" with signs telling them: "Irish Need Not Apply."

Now, Herman Cain wants to bring us back to the good ole' days of hateful discrimination against an American minority group -- to return us to a time before the 1964 Civil Rights Act prohibited discrimination by employers based on religion.

But while Cain's comments are alarming, even more concerning is that not one of the other Republican presidential candidates has denounced his outrageous statements.

This is in stark contrast to 2007 when then-Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney stated that if he were elected president, he would not pick a Muslim for his Cabinet -- not because they were a threat to America, but because there were so few in America, they didn't merit a Cabinet position.

His Republican opponent John McCain quickly and thoughtfully condemned Romney's statement, explaining: "I'm proud of the Muslims who are currently serving in the United States armed forces and my sense is that if they can serve in that manner, they can serve in any position of responsibility in America."

Not only is Cain's policy regarding American Muslims morally wrong and illegal, how would it work from a practical standpoint? How could he tell if a person is Muslim? Job applicants could lie about their religion in order to have a chance at a job, especially in this tough economy.

Maybe he would need to impose a test to ferret out Muslims, asking them subtle questions like: "What do you think of ham?" Or, "If I drew a cartoon of the prophet Mohammed, would you be upset?" Maybe even: "Do you know which way is Mecca?" And if the applicant instinctively points east, out they go.

I understand that the chance of Cain being elected president is slightly less than Anthony Weiner's -- although in Cain's favor, he was the head of Godfather's Pizza which, of course, is the perfect background for someone seeking to become president of the United States. What better way to prepare for serving as the leader of the free world than by serving slices of cheese-stuffed crust pizza?

Cain should not be given a free ride to spread fear just because his chances of winning are low. He must be confronted by mainstream Republicans who oppose his views so they send a clear message to America that the GOP is not the party of hate, but an inclusive one -- for all Americans.

Indeed, there was a moment at Monday's Republican presidential debate that sent a different and alarming message. Cain was applauded when he said he was uncomfortable with a Muslim in his cabinet and Newt "I have a $500,000 credit line at Tiffany's" Gingrich was cheered when he joined Cain's call for a loyalty oath for Muslims.

Gingrich equated American Muslims with communists and Nazis, saying, in part, "I'm in favor of saying to people, 'If you're not prepared to be loyal to the United States, you will not serve in my administration, period. We did this in dealing with the Nazis and we did this in dealing with the communists."

But when Romney thoughtfully responded that our nation was founded on the principle that people of all faiths are welcomed in this country and that the threat of Islamic law being imposed on America was baseless because it would be prevented by our Constitution, the audience response was a little different. Not one Republican in the audience applauded.

The media must step up to ensure that Cain "keeps it real" by asking him detailed follow-up questions when he makes such grave accusations against American Muslims. Indeed, the media should demand credible evidence -- facts -- from every candidate who broadly attacks any American minority group.

"We must never remain silent in the face of bigotry. We must condemn those who seek to divide us. In all quarters and at all times, we must teach tolerance and denounce racism, anti-Semitism and all ethnic or religious bigotry wherever they exist as unacceptable evils. We have no place for haters in America -- none, whatsoever."

This wise quote was from the late Ronald Reagan, a man, who, I have no doubt, would be outraged with the hateful rhetoric of the likes of Herman Cain. It is both poisoning the Republican Party and the nation Reagan loved so much.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Dean Obeidallah.

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