WASHINGTON (ABP) -- Baptist preacher and former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee has landed in hot water for comments critical of Islam.
The former Arkansas governor and potential 2012 presidential hopeful criticized two Protestant churches that opened their doors to Muslims in an interview on Fox and Friends. The churches allowed Muslims to worship in their facilities when mosques in the area were too small or under construction.
"As much as I respect the autonomy of each local church, you just wonder, what are they thinking?" Huckabee said. "If the purpose of a church is to push forward the gospel of Jesus Christ, and then you have a Muslim group that says that Jesus Christ and all the people that follow him are a bunch of infidels who should be essentially obliterated, I have a hard time understanding that."
"I mean if a church is nothing more than a facility and a meeting place free for any and all viewpoints, without regard to what it is, then should the church be rented out to show adult movies on the weekend?" the former pastor and past president of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention wondered aloud. "I mean where does this end? How far does it go? I think the church facility, dedicated and paid for by people for the purpose of the gospel and the mission of the gospel ought to somehow be given at least a semblance of consistency with its intention."
The Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations called on Huckabee to apologize for "inaccurate and offensive" comments about Islam and to meet with Muslim leaders to discuss growing Islamophobia in American society.
"On this Presidents' Day, we ask Mike Huckabee -- a person who may again seek the highest office in the land -- to live up to the principles of tolerance and interfaith respect that make our nation great," said CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad. "We urge Mr. Huckabee to do some research and to apologize for his inaccurate and offensive remarks."
Huckabee said he wasn't equating Muslim worship with pornography. "I'm sure some bloggers will say that, and I will read 300 blog accounts that will say that by noon today, but I'm just saying that if you're going to have a facility dedicated for a purpose -- in this case the worship of Jesus Christ -- is there a reason to say that the people who donated, who gave, who sacrificed to give that facility, really ever intended it to be a place where something that is the antithesis of the gospel of Christ would be presented?"
Huckabee said he realizes the church is the people and not the building, and he has no problem with churches that provide meeting places for civic functions. "We're talking different when you have a faith that believes that all who don't adhere to that specific faith are infidels," he said.
Awad quoted the Quran to show that Muslims revere Jesus as one of God's greatest messengers to humankind and respect Christians and Jews as people who received divine revelation.
"For Mr. Huckabee to falsely claim that Muslims regard all Christians as 'infidels,' a term used only by Hollywood 'B' movies directors, serves to divide our nation along religious lines," Awad said.
Huckabee, whose 2008 bid for the Republican nomination for president fell short with many leaders in his own Southern Baptist Convention backing other GOP candidates they believed would have a better chance of winning in the fall, hasn't said yet whether he plans to run again in 2012.
He recently told a pro-life group that if he were to seriously consider running again it would be in large part to elevate the issue of opposition to abortion. According to the Politico, Huckabee, who now has his own television show on Fox News, recently weighed his 2012 decision during a recent duck hunting trip with some of his top political advisers.