Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson does not believe that any American Muslim should be president of the United States. Appearing on NBC’s “Meet the Press” last Sunday, Carson said, “I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that.”
On Monday Carson doubled down on his bigoted, Islamophobic remarks while on Fox News, telling Sean Hannity, “We don’t put people at the head of our country whose faith might interfere with them carrying out the duties of the Constitution.” Carson later argued that his point was directed toward radical interpretations of Islam.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nations largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, has called on Carson to withdraw from the presidential race because his beliefs are in contradiction with the U.S. Constitution.
Article VI of the constitution reads in part: “No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.”
Carson is wrong to assert that American Muslims, or any community of faith besides that of his own, cannot lead the United States. If Carson cannot reconcile that as president he would have to uphold all of the U.S. Constitution, or represent the welfare of all Americans, including Muslims, then he is unfit to lead our pluralistic nation.
The third president of our nation, Thomas Jefferson, wrote in 1821 that the religious freedom law in Virginia equally applied to “the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mahometan [Muslim], the Hindoo [Hindu], and infidel of every denomination.
On Sunday, Carson followed up his “Meet the Press” interview by telling The Hill that whoever is elected to president should be sworn in on a stack of Bibles, not a Koran.
Carson is obviously not aware that Americas 6th and 26th presidents, John Q. Adams and Theador Roosevelt both chose not to swear on a Bible.
Supreme Court Justice James Iredell, appointed by President George Washington, said of the U.S. Constitution and the debate over religious freedom: “But it is to be objected that the people of America may, perhaps, choose representatives who have no religion at all, and that pagans and Mahometans [Muslims] may be admitted into offices. But how is it possible to exclude any set of men, without taking away that principle of religious freedom, which we ourselves so warmly contend for?”
Does Ben Carson believe that the faiths of congressmen Keith Ellison and Andre Carson, both elected legislators who are Muslim, interfere with their ability to carry out the duties of the U.S. Constitution?
At one point in our nation’s history, it was falsely believed that African Americans or Catholics should not or could not be president. In 2012, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s own Mormon faith was wrongly called into question.
Responding to a similar campaign trail controversy involving anti-Muslim bigotry and false allegations that then 2008 presidential candidate Barak Obama was an Arab or Muslim, former Republican Secretary of State Colin Powell sagely tackled the issue head on in saying how he would address respond to such questions of faith:
“Well, the correct answer is, he [Obama] is not a Muslim, he’s a Christian. He’s always been a Christian. But the really right answer is, what if he is? Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country,” asked Powell. “The answer’s no, that’s not America. Is there something wrong with some seven-year-old Muslim-American kid believing that he or she could be president? Yet, I have heard senior members of my own party drop the suggestion, He’s a Muslim and he might be associated with terrorists. This is not the way we should be doing it in America.”
There are six to seven million American Muslims in the U.S., representing two percent of the population. According to Gallup, Muslims are the “most racially diverse religious group surveyed in the United States, with African Americans making up the largest contingent within the population, at 35%.”
The best response to Carson’s animosity towards Muslims and his expressed position that they are not fit to serve in the White House has come from 12-year-old Minnesotan Muslim and presidential aspirant Yusuf Dayur, whose YouTube reaction video has gone viral.
In his two-minute video, Yusuf told Carson that in preschool, “I would brag to my little, tiny friends that I’m going to be a president one day but “You basically shattered my dream…because you said that a Muslim president cannot become president.”
Undeterred, Yusuf proclaimed to Carson, “I will become the first Muslim president and you will see that when I become president I will respect people of all faiths, all colors and all religions.”
Regardless of their race or religion, all children in America should be able to dream undeterred of becoming President of the United States. Islamophobia will not stand in the way of Americas Muslim children and if Carson cannot accept that he should get out of the way.
Robert McCaw is government affairs manager for the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR)