Mike Huckabee is known as a former governor, an author, a onetime Fox News host, and as a possible contender for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. And now we have a new way to describe Huckabee: Christian Wahhabist.
For those unaware, Wahhabism is a sect of Islam, primarily practiced in Saudi Arabia, which follows a very conservative interpretation of the faith. Wahhabis demand that their religious principles be imposed as the law of their country. And Huckabee, in an interview that aired Sunday on CNN, made it clear that on certain social issues, he too believes that his religious beliefs should be the basis for the laws of the state.
But before we get to that issue, let me start with the reason Huckabee’s interview came to my attention. Huckabee stated that his continued opposition to same-sex marriage is based on the Bible, and that he can’t “evolve” on the issue “unless I get a new version of the scriptures.” He then added that it would be comparable to “asking a Muslim to serve up something that is offensive to him or to have dogs in his backyard.”
Being a Muslim who has offered many times before to be people’s “Muslim friend,” and to answer their questions the best I could about the faith, Huckabee’s dog comment immediately caused some friends to reach out on social media. “Are Muslims religiously prohibited from owning dogs?” they asked.
The simple answer: no. Nowhere in the Quran does such a prohibition appear. However, there are mentions of dogs in the Hadith, which are the sayings and teachings of the Prophet Muhammad. Many Muslims view the Hadith as second only to the Koran in terms of being authoritative. But it should be noted that not all Muslims follow the Hadith and there are questions about the veracity of some of its passages.
In any event, there are passages in the Hadith that suggest dogs are “unclean”—but scholars note that was meant literally because it referred to dogs in the desert some 1,400 years ago. Consequently, some Muslims avoid dogs. But other passages of the Hadith say that Muslims can own working dogs, such as for hunting, farming, etc. And yet another passage notes that the Prophet Muhammad stated that God had forgiven a prostitute of her sins after she offered water to a dog in need of drink on a hot summer day. So, clearly, dogs are described in different ways in Islamic texts.
Bottom line: Many Muslims I know, including my own family, own dogs as pets. There was even a “Good Muslims Love Dogs” day in Canada few years back to counter bigots who urged people to taunt Muslims with dogs.
And regarding Huckabee’s remark that Muslims should not be required to serve food they find objectionable, my father was a cook and prepared pork for people daily. This was not a problem. In fact, there would only be a problem if the pork jumped off the plate and jammed itself into his mouth.
So Huckabee was wrong, but it’s not a big deal because he was clearly not trying to demonize Muslims as dog haters. But what is a big deal is his ludicrous argument that Muslims being asked to serve pork is the same as his desire to impose laws that bar gay Americans from getting married because it violates his religious beliefs.
Marriage, as our courts have found many times in the past, is a “fundamental right.” And there’s absolutely no comparison between that important right and the serving or not serving of pork.
Huckabee then gave us another baffling comment during his CNN interview. While complaining about courts striking laws that banned gay marriage, he stated, that “we don’t change laws because some people in a black robe just decide” an issue.
Well, actually, that’s exactly what we do. Our nation’s Founding Fathers set up our system of government so that we have a separation of powers and the judicial branch would interpret the law. And if a law were found to be in unconstitutional by the courts, it would be struck down. This is all pretty basic stuff.
Still not done, Huckabee then defended the prohibition on gay marriage in certain states by noting that sometimes 70 or 80 “percent of the state’s population have affirmed natural law marriage.” Translation: If a majority of people support discrimination, then the court should defer to the will of the people.
Well, in 1967, when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down state laws that made it a crime to enter into an interracial marriage in the seminal case of Loving v. Virginia, 73 percent of Americans supported such laws. In fact, it wasn’t until the mid-1990s that a majority of Americans finally approved of interracial marriage. So, if we followed Huckabee’s logic to its end point, then interracial married couples, like President Obama’s parents, should have been criminally prosecuted through the 1990s.
To be honest, Huckabee’s Wahhabist tendencies are nothing new. When he last ran for president in 2008, he argued that we “should amend the Constitution so it’s in God’s standards.”
What would be the reaction if a Muslim candidate for president (or even dog catcher for that matter) argued that we should amend our Constitution to agree with the Quran? The right wing in this country would explode. It would be all the Breitbart.coms of the world would talk about. But many of those same right-wing people who fabricate the claim that Muslims in America want to impose Islamic law have no problem when a Christian politician tells us point blank he wants to impose what is, in essence, Christian Sharia law.
The good news: Our First Amendment prohibits the establishment of any religion in our country, be it Christianity or Islam or anything else. That doesn’t mean people like Huckabee—just like Wahhabists in Saudi Arabia—won’t continue to advocate for their religious beliefs to be the law of the land. But in the United States at least, our laws must be based on public policy considerations and the Constitution, not passages of religious text.
And thank God for that.