Updated: September 28, 2015
This page is intended to provide readers with insights into various potential or current presidential candidate’s views on Islam and connections with the U.S. Islamophobia network. CAIR neither opposes nor supports any candidate for public office. Candidates may not be listed if there is no relevant information concerning their views on Islam available; however, we will list any positive or negative information we locate.
We have reviewed former Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chaffee, former Virginia Senator Jim Webb, former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, Florida Senator Marco Rubio, and former Hewlett-Packard CEO Cara “Carly” Fiorina and have not found any material to include in this report.
After a 14-year-old Muslim Ahmed Mohamed was arrested for bringing an electronic clock he had made to school to show off to his teacher, Clinton tweeted, "Assumptions and fear don't keep us safe—they hold us back. Ahmed, stay curious and keep building."
Ramadan celebrations became a tradition for the White House in the United States in 1996 when then First Lady Hillary Clinton hosted an Eid-al-Fitr celebration.
In April 2011, speaking at the annual U.S. - Islamic World Forum, then Secretary of State Clinton stated “I am proud that this year we are recognizing the contributions of the millions of American Muslims who do so much to make this country strong. As President Obama said in Cairo, 'Islam has always been a part of America's story,' and every day American Muslims are helping write our story."
Following the wrongful arrest of a Texas Muslim teen who brought a DIY electronic clock to school Sander's tweeted "we must stand strong against anti-Muslim bigotry." After Republican candidate Ben Carson said he would not vote for a Muslim for U.S. President, Sander's tweeted, "I am very disappointed that Dr. Carson would suggest that a Muslim should not become president of the United States."
In early 2015, CAIR wrote an open letter to GOP nomination hopefuls urging them to engage Muslim voters and reject Islamophobia.
In March 2015, Bush appointed Jordan Sekulow as a senior advisor to his Right to Rise Political Action Committee.
The U.S. Council of Muslim Organizations wrote a letter to Bush requesting that he drop Sekulow. In part that letter read, “Sekulow is executive director of the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), an organization that in 2011 published an anti-Muslim pamphlet titled 'Shari'a Law: Radical Islam's Threat to the U.S. Constitution,' which falsely claims that 'devout Muslims cannot truthfully swear the oath to become citizens of the United States of America.
To date, Bush has not responded to the letter.
Speaking on Meet the Press, Carson said Islam is not consistent with the U.S. Constitution. He also said he would not vote for a Muslim for President. Even after it was pointed out that Article VI of the Constitution prohibits such religious tests for public office, Carson refused to alter his stand and later added that the next president should "be sworn in on a stack of Bibles, not a Qur'an." Asked about his Meet the Press remarks duringa CNN interivew, Carson add, "I would have problems with somebody who embraced all the doctrines associated with Islam. If they are not willing to reject sharia and all the portions of it that are talked about in the Quran."
In an interview with Breitbart, Carson said followers of radical Islam, "have the same goal as they did when Mohammed was around. They want to dominate. And they want everyone else to submit to them.” The false notion that violent extremists represent the authentic teachings and practices of Prophet Mohammad is a common Islamophobic trope.
Carson’s record to date reveals a lack of familiarity with Islam. During an interview with radio talk show host Hugh Hewitt, Carson opined that violent extremist Sunnis and violent extremist Shias could unite against the United States. A commentator in the conservative National Review noted that this assertion is “one that many foreign policy experts would likely dismiss entirely.”
In 2013, Carson was listed as a confirmed speaker at the David Horowitz Freedom Center’s Restoration Weekend Conference. The David Horowitz Freedom Center is part of the inner core of the U.S. Islamophobia network. The Southern Poverty Law Center, a group that tracks hate movements in the United States, labels Horowitz “the godfather of the modern anti-Muslim movement.
Carson employed Sharia-scare tactics in a 2014 op-ed writing, “The Islamic State (usually called ISIS) and the other advocates of Shariah law are growing rapidly, along with their zeal to eradicate or convert all “infidels.” Carson appears unaware that Sharia influences the lives of all Muslims, the overwhelming majority of whom reject the interpretations put forth by violent extremist groups like IS.
In 2011, Islamophobes alleged that Christie’s nomination of a Muslim for a position as a state Superior Court judge would somehow open the floodgates to Sharia, Islamic religious principles, undermining America. Christie rejected the accusers and defended his nominee saying,"This Sharia law business is just crap. It's just crazy, and I'm tired of dealing with the crazies."
Of the Muslim nominee, Christie added,“He is an extraordinary American who is an outstanding lawyer and played an integral role in the post-September 11th period in building bridges between the Muslim American community in this state and law enforcement.”
At the height of the Park 51 controversy during the summer of 2010, Christie spoke about the Muslim community in the United States, stating, “We cannot paint all of Islam with that brush. We can’t paint all of Islam with the [9/11 perpetrator] Muhammad Atta brush. We have to bring people together.”
In the wake of revelations that the New York Police Department had gone outside of its jurisdiction to surveil Muslims who were not suspected of any wrongdoing, Christie signed a bill that mandated non-New Jersey law-enforcement to disclose their surveillance and activities in advance of the surveillance. Christie was quoted as saying “…believe we must protect and maintain civil liberties, especially those of the citizens in New Jersey’s Muslim Community.…”
Cruz appointed Kevin Kookogey, the former chair of the Williamson County, Tenn. Republican Party as his 2016 Presidential Campaign’s Tennessee chair.
In 2012, Kookogey oversaw the adoption of a resolution condemning Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam for appointing a Muslim lawyer to the state's Department of Economic and Community Development. The resolution stated in part: "Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam has elevated and/or afforded preferential political status to Sharia adherents in Tennessee, thereby aiding and abetting the advancement of an ideology and doctrine which is wholly incompatible with the Constitution of the United States and the Tennessee Constitution."
Cruz campaign spokeswoman Catherine Frazier defended Kookogey’s anti-Muslim resolution as “defending American law under the U.S. Constitution" and said she could not see how it “is anti-Muslim.”
CAIR noted that the Cruz campaign was seeking to morph Kookogey’s hate-filled attack on a young Muslim woman appointee to a position in state government into ‘defending American law’ and said, “The Cruz campaign has pointedly avoided explaining why it endorses Kevin Kookogey’s attack on a person because of her religion and how that attack qualifies as defending the Constitution.”
Cruz has displayed a growing comfort with Islamophobic groups. In early 2015, Cruz accepted an invitation to speak at two summits, one in Iowa and one in South Carolina, hosted by Frank Gaffney’s Center for Security Policy, a group that is part of the inner core of the U.S. Islamophobia network. At one of the conferences, Cruz told audience members that the, “9/11 Hijackers Weren’t Just a Bunch of Ticked-Off Presbyterians.”
Sen. Cruz spoke at the Young America's Foundation's “New England Freedom Conference,” in March 2015. Other speakers included Robert Spencer.The Southern Poverty Law Center named Spencer as part of the nation's "Anti-Muslim Inner Circle." CAIR lists Spencer's Jihad Watch blog as part of the inner core of the U.S. Islamophobia network. Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik cited Spencer's blog 162 times in his manifesto.
In 2013, Cruz was a guest speaker at the David Horowitz Freedom Center’s Restoration Weekend Conference. The David Horowitz Freedom Center is part of the inner core of the U.S. Islamophobia network. The Southern Poverty Law Center, a group that tracks hate movements in the United States, labels Horowitz “the godfather of the modern anti-Muslim movement.
About Horowitz, Cruz said “David is profoundly principled and he commits one simple act that has incredible power over and over again. He tells the truth.”
While making a campaign appearance in 2012, Cruz said, “Sharia law is an enormous problem.”
After fellow candidate Ben Carson said Islam is inconsistent with the U.S. Constitution, Graham tweeted that Carson "is not ready to be Commander-in-Chief" and that he should "apologize to American Muslims."
During a Republican Presidential debate Graham said that "Islamic websites need to be monitored and if you're on one I wanna know what you're doing."
At a campaign stop in Iowa in July 2015, a man started to propose outlawing Islam in the United States. Graham cut him off and said, "You know what, I'm not your candidate. I don't want you to vote for me. I couldn't disagree with you more." After the event, Graham added, “I'm not buying into that construct. That's not the America that I want to lead."
On June 24, 2015, Graham gave a speech on the U.S. Senate floor discussing the recent white supremacist shooting in Charlston, South Carolina. Graham alleged that the murderer displayed "Mideast hate." The Middle East encompasses many different nations and peoples and to assert that a certain type of hate comes from that region of the world is discriminatory.
In 2011, during the U.S. Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Constitution, Civil and Human Rights hearing on 'Protecting the Civil Rights of American Muslims' Senator Graham stated that "those who have freedom of speech, it's a gift given to you by a lot of people risking their own lives. So when you say things here at home or you do things here at home that create tension based on religious differences, particularly when it's the Muslim community involved, your putting our soldiers at risk" and "there are plenty of Muslims who wear our uniform and we need to understand that, again, we're all in this together."
During a 2013 interview with Fox News Radio, Graham asserted that the common Islamic phrase "Allahu Akbar" (Arabic for 'God is Greatest') is a war chant. Muslims all over the world use this phrase multiple times per day, in their calls to prayer and in their peaceful daily lives.
In May, 2015, Graham said at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee New England Leadership Dinner that "Al Qaeda, Al Nusra, Al Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula... Everything that starts with 'Al' in the Middle East is bad news." In Arabic, the word Al means the word "the." Graham spokesman Kevin Bishop informed the Washington Post that "al-being-bad-news line is a joke that's part of Graham's regular stump speech -- and one that he's told for many years."
While criticizing a church that was allowing Muslims to use its facility for prayer in 2011, Huckabee said that according to Islam, “Jesus Christ and all the people that follow him are a bunch of infidels who should be essentially obliterated.” Huckabee went on to compare the church allowing Muslims a space to pray to be like the church allowing pornographic films to be shown.
Huckabee again shared his views of Islam in 2013 saying, “why it is that we tiptoe around a religion that promotes the most murderous mayhem on the planet in their so-called holiest days. … the most likely time to have an uprising of rock throwing and rioting comes on the day of prayer on Friday” and “So the Muslims will go to the mosque, and they will have their day of prayer, and they come out of there like uncorked animals — throwing rocks and burning cars.”
During previous campaigns, Huckabee has employed sharia-scare tactics, using the term as a bogeyman to frighten voters. He has similarly used anti-Islam buzz words to smear President Obama saying, “that I do think he has a different worldview and I think it's, in part, molded out of a very different experience. Most of us grew up going to Boy Scout meetings and, you know, our communities were filled with Rotary Clubs, not madrassas."
Responding to the media uproar over Ben Carson's anti-Islam comments, Jindal issued a statement in which he said, "If you can find me a Muslim candidate...who will place their hand on the Bible and swear to uphold the Constitution, then yes, I will be happy to consider voting for him or her." Article 2 of the Constitution has no requirement that the presidential oath be taken on a Bible. Neither John Quincy Adams nor Teddy Roosevelt used a Bible for their swearing in ceremonies.
Asked about the arrest of ninth-grader Ahmed Mohammed for bringing a DIY electronic clock to school to show off to his teachers, jindal pivoted the question to an attack on Muslims. Asked how to strike a balance between vigilance and discrimination Jindal started by saying, "we don't discriminate against anyone based on the color of thier skin or their creed." He then said Muslim leaders need to denounce violent extremists by name, something they have been doing for years, and "[Muslims] have to explicity embrace the same freedoms for everybody else they want for themselves." He did ultimately agree that a 14-year-old should never be arrested for bringing a clock to school.
In early 2015, Jindal adopted the discredited and universally mocked claim that Muslims in Europe have set up so-called "no-go zones" "no-go zones" that people of other faiths and police are not allowed to enter. Previously, Fox News was forced to apologize several times for a similar "no-go zone" claim made by self-proclaimed terrorism 'expert' Steven Emerson. In response to Emerson's claim, British Prime Minister David Cameron said: "Frankly I choked on my porridge and thought it must be April's Fools Day. This guy is clearly a complete idiot."
In a speech in London, Jindal claimed, "non-assimilationist Muslims establish enclaves and carry out as much of Sharia law as they can without regard for the laws of the democratic countries which provided them a new home." He added that "it is startling to think that any country would allow, even unofficially, for a so-called 'no-go zone.'"
When a journalist later pressed Jindal to provide examples of "no-go zones," he could not offer specifics to support his claim.
Jindal then proposed barring "dangerous" Muslims "who want to come to our country but not adopt our values" from entering the U.S. Fox News’ Megyn Kelly challenged Jindal on his proposal to have the government start defining which religious interpretations are acceptable in America. Kelly said, “Members of ISIS may be a different story, but just to say that if you are a radical Islamist or, more specifically, if you believe in Sharia law, then you won’t be allowed into the United States is controversial. Who decides how far into Sharia law you have to be? Who decides who’s a radical Islamist and who’s just an Islamist?”
While all Americans value national security, the notion of government policing ideology or interpreting religion is Constitutionally-questionable. Fox News’ Megyn Kelly challenged Jindal saying, “This is a country with lots of crazy beliefs. And actually, some religions continue to treat women as second-class citizens — and it’s not just some forms of Islam. Are we going to start banning everybody who doesn’t treat women or children or criminals, for that matter, the way we like?”
Jindal attended the South Carolina National Security Action Summit in March 2015. The event was sponsored in part by Frank Gaffney’s Center for Security Policy, a key group in the U.S. Islamophobia network.
In a video provided to promote the Summit, Jindal said: “Muslim leaders need to condemn anyone who commits these acts of violence and clearly state that these people are evil and are enemies of Islam. It’s not enough to simply condemn violence, they must stand up and loudly proclaim that these people are not martyrs who will receive a reward in the afterlife, and rather they are murderers who are going to hell. If they refuse to do that, then they’re part of the problem. There is no middle ground here.” This false allegation is widely disproven. [For just a single example of the extensive Muslim condemnations and actions opposing violent extremism see here. To see a letter signed by major Muslim scholars, including American Muslims, sent to ISIS and deconstructing its theology see here.]
In an interview, Rand Paul stated that he would support restricting Immigration from Muslim countries. “I’m for increasing scrutiny on people who come on student visas from the 25 countries that have significant jihadism. Also, any kind of permanent visas or green cards, we need to be very careful. I don’t think we’re being careful enough with who we let in.” In addition, Paul stated his interest in re-instating the NSEERS (National Security Entry Exit Registration System) Program. “There was a program in place that Bush had put in place—it stood for entry-exit program from about 25 different countries with a lot of Islamic radicals, frankly.”
NSEERS was established in 2002 by the Department of Justice and resulted in a wide scale registration program targeting male visitors from countries with Muslim-majority populations. Portions of the discriminatory program were suspended in 2011 and in 2012 the Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General called for a full termination of NSEERS as the “database that supports this program is obsolete” and it “does not provide any increase in security.”
During a Fox News interview commenting on being patted down by TSA, Senator Paul said “I don't think the random pat-downs are making us any safer. I want to know where the Middle Eastern students are that are here visiting our country. Are they in class, are they going to class, if they get on a plane. If you've been to Yemen twice in the last six months, I want to know who you are and know more about your travel. But most American citizens need to go through a relatively easy security process that's not too invasive and doesn't take away our dignity. Paul’s comments about tracking the movements of Middle Eastern students in America amount to supporting racial profiling.
During a radio interview following terror attacks targeting the offices of Charlie Hebdo magazine in France Paul said, "I think also you got to secure your country. That means maybe that every Muslim immigrant that wishes to come to France shouldn't have an open door to come."
Perry exited the race in September, 2015.
In 2005, Governor Perry participated in a groundbreaking ceremony for a Texas mosque. He also worked to create the "Muslim Histories and Cultures" program "which has trained scores of teachers who have taught thousands of Texas students" the basics of Islam.
In 2011, Perry held a Christian prayer rally "using his office's prestige, letterhead, Web site and other resources to promote it." Muslim and Jewish groups raised objections to the event.
In 2014, Perry was a keynote speaker at the David Horowitz Freedom Center's Restoration Weekend Conference. The David Horowitz Freedom Center is part of the inner core of the U.S. Islamophobia network. The Southern Poverty Law Center, a group that tracks hate movements in the United States, labels Horowitz "the godfather of the modern anti-Muslim movement".
Rubio did not "share the feelings" of then U.S. Rep. Michelle Bachmann when she alleged that a number of American Muslims in public service had infiltrated the U.S. government on behalf of the Muslim Brotherhood. A number of Republican leaders, including House Speaker Boehner and U.S. Senator John McCain issued more forceful rejections of Bachmann's witch hunt.
Commenting on the Syrian refugee crisis, Santorum said, “There are serious questions here about Islam and the spread of Islam and how it spreads and, again, because the administration refuses to acknowledge that Islam has anything to do with anything, we can’t even have a discussion about why we’re taking only Muslims here in the United States.” The former Senator also believes that Syrian refugees are primarily men.
"Santorum calls Sharia, or Islamic religious principles, "an existential threat" to America. In a "lecture on Islam," Santorum falsely claimed the Quran, Islam's revealed text, was written in "Islamic." Santorum has alleged that equality is a Christian concept not found in other faith traditions.
According to Santorum, the difference between Islam and the West is that “you don’t have any Baptist ministers going on jihad.”
Santorum believes that Islam itself promotes violent behavior and that Americans needs to help Muslims recognize this sickness. During a 2014 convocation speech at Liberty University, he told the audience, “By not correctly identifying these Islamists for who they are, [Presidents Obama and Bush have] given all Muslims a pass for identifying a cancer within their own body. We don’t help them treat that illness when we refuse to identify that their body is sick.”
In a nationally televised debate featuring GOP Presidential nominee contenders in 2012, Santorum defended ethnic and religious profiling. After being asked who, specifically, he would have profiled he answered, "Obviously Muslims would be someone you'd look at, absolutely."
In January 2012, Santorum implied that equality was solely a Christian concept, drawing responses from Sikh, Hindu and Muslim group. "Where do you think the concept of equality comes from?" Santorum said. "It doesn't come from Islam. It doesn't come from the East and Eastern religions. It comes from the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob."
In January, 2012 journalists brought attention to a 2007 speech Santorum gave a lengthy Islamophobic rant at David Horowitz’s “Second Annual Academic Freedom Conference. Santorum asserted that in order to “win” Americans must, “…educate, engage, evangelize and eradicate."
Santorum added, "Look at Europe. Europe is on the way to losing. The most popular male name in Belgium -- Mohammad. It’s the fifth most popular name in France among boys. They are losing because they are not having children, they have no faith, they have nothing to counteract it. They are balkanizing Islam, but that’s exactly what they want. And they’re creating an opportunity for the creation of Eurabia, or Euristan in the future...Europe will not be in this battle with us. Because there will be no Europe left to fight."
Santorum told an audience in March, 2011, “We need to define it and say what it is. And it is evil. Sharia law is incompatible with American jurisprudence and our Constitution.”
In a January, 2007 speech Santorum said, “Until we have the kind of discussion and dialogue with Islam -- that democracy and freedom of religion, along with religious pluralism, are essential for the stability of the world and our ability to cohabit in this world," and, "Unless Islam is willing to make that conscious decision, then we are going to be at war for a long time." Santorum’s statement implied that Islam at large was somehow incompatible with the ideals of democracy and pluralism and that it is responsible for ongoing U.S. conflicts.
In response to question on Meet the Press about the possibility of a Muslim becoming the U.S. president, "Mr. Trump said he could envision a day when a Muslim was president, but he would not say how comfortable he was with the idea, according to the New York Times.
During a campaign stop in New Hampshire, an audience member asked Trump, “We have a problem in this country. It's called Muslims.Our current president is one. We know he's not even an American." He added "We have training camps growing where they want to kill us. That's my question: When can we get rid of them?" Trump responded: "A lot of people are saying that and a lot of people are saying that bad things are happening out there. We're going to be looking at that and a lot of different things."
In April of 2011, Trump gave an interview with The Brody File during which he described his feelings about the Quran and its impact on Muslims and Muslim action in the world. Trump said, “Bill O'Reilly asked me is there a Muslim problem? And I said absolutely, yes. In fact I went a step further. I said I didn't see Swedish people knocking down the World Trade Center.”
He later added: “I'm certainly not an expert, to put it mildly. But there's something [in the Quran] that teaches some very negative vibe.”
During the O’Reilly interview Trump also questioned whether President Obama has a U.S. birth certificate and whether or not he was Muslim stating that, “People have birth certificates. He doesn't have a birth certificate. He may have one but there's something on that, maybe religion, maybe it says he is a Muslim. I don't know. Maybe he doesn't want that. Or he may not have one...”
In response to the May 3, 2015 Drawing Muhammad contest hosted by Pamela Geller’s anti-Islam group the American Freedom Defense Initiative where gunman attacked in Garland, Texas, Trump was critical of the event and described its message to the Muslim community as a taunt.
Trump tweeted, “Nobody would fight harder for free speech than me but why taunt, over and over again, in order to provoke possible death to audience. DUMB! And “What would you do if a large group of Muslims had a very public meeting drawing horrible and mocking cartoons of Jesus? Oh really, be cool!”
Trump attended and spoke at the GOP Iowa Summit in May 2015 where he was quoted as saying “Christians can’t come into this country but Muslims can,” said Trump. “What’s that all about?”
Walker exited the race in September 2015.
In August, Walker claimed that there are only a "handful of reasonable, moderate followers of Islam."
AshLee Strong, Governor Walker’s national press secretary, later wrote an email to ThinkProgress saying, ““The Governor knows that the majority of ISIS’s victims are Muslims.Muslims who want to live in peace — the majority of Muslims — are the first target of radical Islamic terrorists. Under the Obama-Clinton foreign policy doctrine, we’ve been abandoning our traditional Muslim allies in the Middle East and allowing ISIS, al Qaeda, and Iran to fill the void.”
Walker’s campaign chairman Michael Grebe has served as president and CEO of the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation. Under Grebe’s leadership, the fund provided contributions to at least four inner core Islamophobic organizations. Grebe continued the financial after the bias advanced by these groups was pointed out to him. Most recently, the fund provided $40,000 to Daniel Pipes’ Middle East Forum and $225,000 to the David Horowitz Freedom Center, according to its 2014 annual report.
In July it was revealed that Kevin Hermening, a foreign policy advisor for Walker’s campaign, had authored a 2001 commentary published in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that called for "the immediate and unequivocal deportation of every illegal alien and immigrant, with a focus on removing those of Middle Eastern descent" and for "a massive military response that includes the destruction of the capitals of Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Sudan and Yemen." He wrote that every military response, including "nuclear weapons," should be considered. When asked about the extremist views expressed in the commentary, a Walker campaign spokeswoman stood by Hermening.
As reported by the Intercept: “Walker responded to [news about Hermening’s column] on Monday. “I’ll speak for myself,” he told the Journal Sentinel. “My policy is very clear, and it’s not aligned with what he said in that particular column.” Walker told the newspaper that he does not consider Hermening an adviser, even though his campaign has featured him prominently. Walker’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment from The Intercept.”
This website is a project of CAIR's Department to Monitor and Combat Islamophobia.