In a recent interview with Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, former conservative Fox News pundit Mansoor Ijaz asked the former governor whether he would consider nominating a Muslim to be a member of his national security cabinet. Ijaz reports:
I asked Mr. Romney whether he would consider including qualified Americans of the Islamic faith in his cabinet as advisers on national security matters, given his position that “jihadism” is the principal foreign policy threat facing America today. He answered, “…based on the numbers of American Muslims [as a percentage] in our population, I cannot see that a cabinet position would be justified. But of course, I would imagine that Muslims could serve at lower levels of my administration.”
Note to Romney: As a Mormon running for President, you’re going to need to come up with a better justification for religious bigotry against Muslims.
According to the CIA World Factbook (which uses 2002 numbers), Mormons comprise just 2 percent of the U.S. population, while Jews and Muslims comprise 1 percent each. Based on 2001 numbers, there were 2.8 million Mormons and 1.1 million Muslims in the United States. Surveys since that time indicate that the number of Muslims may have eclipsed the number of Mormons living in the U.S.
Moreover, according to a recent Pew survey, Americans are about as familiar with Mormonism as they with Islam:
Overall, the public’s level of self-reported familiarity with Mormonism and Mormons is not much greater than its level of familiarity with Islam and Muslims. Roughly half (49%) say they know a great deal or some about the Mormon religion and its practices, while about as many people (48%) say that they know someone who is Mormon. (By comparison, 41% have at least some knowledge of Islam and 45% say they know a Muslim.)
Steven Benen writes, “Open and unabashed discrimination towards certain Americans — Muslims and gays, among others — is not only acceptable to too many conservatives, it’s expected. It’s why Romney’s vow to discriminate against Muslims will probably not hurt him politically — given the ideology of the GOP base, it might even help him.”
He adds, “The Muslim percentage of the U.S. population is similar to the Mormon percentage of the U.S. population. By Romney’s logic, wouldn’t he also support discrimination against members of his own faith?”
UPDATE: Josh Marshall has more.
UPDATE II: Kevin Madden, Romney’s national press secretary, told Politico: “At this point, we’re not focused on what Gov. Romney’s Cabinet might look like. But the governor does not believe that in order to effectively fight radical jihad you need to have Muslims serving in the Cabinet.”