What a week to be Muslim! Last Monday, 14-year-old Ahmed Mohamed was arrested for taking a homemade clock to school. By Tuesday, we saw an outpouring of support for Mohamed on social media and from celebrities like Mark Zuckerberg and even President Obama.
Then on Thursday, Donald Trump refused to counter a supporter spewing vile anti-Muslim crap at a Trump event. But come Saturday, Trump was declaring,
“I love the Muslims. I think they’re great people.”
Trump even said he would “absolutely” be open to appointing a Muslim American to his cabinet or have on his ticket as a running mate. (Good luck finding a Republican Muslim after this week!)
That brings us to Sunday. Ben Carson, who has been running second to Trump for the GOP presidential nomination, gave us this gem while on NBC’s Meet the Press: “I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that.”
Why would Carson be adamantly opposed to a Muslim president, you may ask? Because Carson believes that Islam is “incompatible with the Constitution.”
The glaring irony of Carson arguing that a Muslim should not be president simply because of his or her faith is that his position is what’s actually incompatible with the Constitution. Carson is calling for a religious test for the presidency. But that’s expressly banned by Article VI of the Constitution, which provides that “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.”
Our nation’s Founding Fathers could not have made it more clear that Carson’s view that a person’s faith should disqualify him or her for federal office violates the values and principles of our nation.
Carson’s words are truly no different from the anti-Catholic and anti-Semitic rhetoric heard in American politics in the past. For example, during the 1960 race for president, John F. Kennedy was attacked for his Catholicism. As Shaun Casey noted in his book The Making of a Catholic President, allegations against Kennedy included that the “Roman Catholic faith was ultimately incompatible with principles” of our nation.
And anti-Semitism was part of the American political landscape in the 1930s. For example, Father Charles Coughlin was a wildly popular radio host who had spewed anti-Semitic diatribes including the idea that Jews weren’t loyal to America. But that didn’t stop American politicians from partnering up with him. In fact Coughlin spoke at the 1932 Democratic National Convention.
So you see, what Carson and other Republicans have said about Muslims holding beliefs inconsistent with American values or not being loyal to America has been said before about Catholics and Jews.
Now the good news for Muslims (and bad for Carson and his ilk) is that a poll from July found that 60 percent of Americans would support a Muslim candidate for president. Maybe Carson is jealous because he will never see that level of support?!
And even more upsetting for Carson is that the poll found 76 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds would support a Muslim, as would 67 percent of 30- to 49-year-olds. That means the future for a Muslim candidate for president is far brighter than Carson’s.
Carson’s point that somehow Islam is incompatible with American values is astoundingly wrong. Islam is grounded on Judeo-Christian values, which is why all three of these religions are known as the Abrahamic faiths. I guess Carson is clueless that Jesus, Abraham, and Moses are revered by Muslims.
In fact, this Thursday marks one of the most important Islamic holidays, known as Eid Al Adha, or the Feast of the Sacrifice. Does this day celebrate something to do with the Prophet Muhammad? Nope, it commemorates the moment God appeared to the prophet Abraham and asked him to sacrifice his son as an act of devotion. Yep, that’s the same Abraham the Jews like.
Putting all of this side, what’s truly the most alarming about Carson’s words is that he’s feeding the narrative we hear from others on the right that Muslims are a threat to America. He’s stoking flames of fear about Muslims that not only leads to hatred, it may bring some to the doorstep of violence. And sadly some have crossed through that threshold. For example, right-winger Glendon Scott Crawford was convicted in April for plotting a terrorist attack to kill Muslim Americans with a weapon of mass destruction and will soon be sentenced to 25 years to life.
And Robert Doggart, a Christian minister, is about to start trial on charges of plotting to slaughter Muslims in upstate New York using M-4 military assault rifles, explosives, and a machete to cut the Muslims “to shreds.”
Carson’s words also contribute to a climate in which hate crimes against Muslims are five times higher today than before the 9/11 attacks. And I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that weekly, I see incidents of everything from threats against Muslim Americans to defacing of Muslim houses of worship to actual physical assaults on Muslims. (I mention these events every week on my SiriusXM radio show in the segment “Islamophobe of the week,” and we are never at a loss to find three or more nominees.)
I have no doubt that Carson will lose this race. But sadly his views will continue on in the GOP until we see a real leader in that party stand up and make it clear that this type of fear mongering against fellow Americans is no longer acceptable. I just wonder if we will see that day anytime soon?