On the issue of Muslims serving in public office, every explanation by presidential candidate Herman Cain becomes a complication. In three instances Cain affirmed that Muslims would not be allowed to serve in his Cabinet or administration. “Many of the Muslims,” he explained, “they’re not totally dedicated to this country.” Cain then amended his remarks to say that, while Muslims would be allowed to serve, they should be subject to “extra precautions” not applied to Catholics or Mormons.

It is unclear what this would mean in practice. Presidential appointees already swear an oath of loyalty to the Constitution. I took mine in 2001 in the East Room of the White House — a solemn and sobering affair. High-ranking officials are subject to an extensive FBI background check, including the disclosure of every place one has lived and every country one has visited. FBI agents questioned an elderly, frightened woman who had been my neighbor 15 years before. She denied ever having laid eyes on me. Cabinet secretaries are given the added scrutiny of a Senate hearing, based on endless pages of intrusive, written questions.

So what additional level of scrutiny, what addendum to the loyalty oath, should be imposed on Muslims? A requirement to forswear sharia law? But what definition, what interpretation of sharia?

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