Editorial, Argus Staff
“I Would Not Advocate That We Put a Muslim in Charge”
In an interview with NBC on Sept. 20, GOP candidate Ben Carson offered his opinion on whether he’d support a person of Islamic faith who wished to run for President of the United States.
His response, that he would not advocate a Muslim for that position, sparked controversy, and it demonstrates his latent Islamophobia.
Chuck Todd, the NBC news reporter interviewing Carson, asked him if he thinks a president’s faith matters.
“I guess it depends on what that faith is. If it’s inconsistent with the values and principles of America, then of course it should matter,” Carson said. “But if it fits within the realm of America and consistent with the Constitution, I have no problem.”
Todd then asked Carson if he believes that Islam is consistent with the constitution. To that, Carson said, “No, I don’t—I do not. I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that.”
Not only does this statement suggest Islamophobia, but it also completely dismisses the concept of secularism. Just as Christian leaders have been capable of separating church and state, Muslims are capable, too.
Carson identifies as a member of the Seventh-Day Adventist church, a Protestant Christian church. As such, Carson does not believe in gay marriage. He has been vocal about that opinion, but Carson has also said that he accepts that gay marriage is now the “law of the land.”
Even so, as he is a Christian who denounces gay marriage, one could say that Carson’s beliefs don’t fit “within the realm of America.” Yet, it is safe to say that Carson doesn’t think Christianity is outside of that realm.
But because Carson is able to separate his beliefs from American law, he abides by the first amendment, which states that the U.S. government is prohibited making a law respecting the establishment of a religion.
Clearly, Carson understands the idea of secularism, but he doesn’t understand when it comes to a Muslim president because he does not know what Islam asks of its followers.
On the Monday following this event, Carson said he would support a Muslim president who rejected Shariah law in a Facebook post: “I could never support a candidate for president of the United States that was Muslim and had not renounced the central (tenet) of Islam: Shariah Law,” he wrote. “I know that there are many peaceful Muslims who do not adhere to these beliefs. But until these tenets are fully renounced … I cannot advocate any Muslim candidate for President.”
But the Shariah Law is not what Carson believes it to be. Qasim Rashid, an attorney and visiting fellow at Harvard University’s Prince Alwaleed bin Talal School of Islamic Studies, says, “Shariah is a personal relationship with God.”
“First, Shariah is a personal relationship between a Muslim and God. The First Amendment forbids Congress from passing laws that restrict the free exercise of religion–particularly private exercise,” Rashid said. “If Shariah was banned, then American Muslims could not marry, inherit, write wills or choose to divorce per Islam’s guidelines.”
So, Carson’s demand of religious renunciation is unfair to a hypothetical Muslim president. Let it also be noted that a Christian presidential candidate has never been asked to renounce his or her faith.
“Not a single non-Muslim was held to Shariah because Shariah itself forbids compulsion. The Qur’an clearly says, ‘There is no compulsion in religion’ (2:257),” Rashid said. “Furthermore, Shariah obliges Muslims to be loyal to their nation of residence. Therefore, American Muslims must adhere to the US Constitution as the supreme law of the land.”
Carson’s Islamophobic remark is indicative of the religious illiteracy that is prominent in the United States. Religious illiteracy and subsequent fear make for a dangerously ignorant combination.