Muhammad for President

A response to Ben Carson

Illustrator: Max Smith

Illustrator: Max Smith

In the wake the offensive and uninformed comments by Republican frontrunner Donald Trump, another candidate has stepped into the critical spotlight. Ben Carson is facing backlash after his comments on NBC’s “Meet the Press” regarding his feelings about the possibility of a future Muslim president.

In the interview, Carson stated, “I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that.” His feelings on this subject originate in his belief that Muslim practices are not consistent with the Constitution.

When asked whether the faith of a president should matter, he replied, “If it’s inconsistent with the values and principles of America, then of course it should matter.”

While there are many reasons that his comments are troubling, the most evident issue is that in saying Islam is unconstitutional, he is rejecting Article 6 of the Constitution. This article states when it comes to government: “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office.”  This ironic bit of hypocrisy is yet another example of the powerful elites in this country feeling that anything outside of their own system of beliefs is an attack on their personal freedoms, rather than an expression of the diversity of this country’s people.

Technical matters aside, Carson’s remarks represent the prejudices against Muslims still endemic to our national sentiments. Through setting the religion at odds with the Constitution, and thus American values, Carson has angered not just Muslim Americans aspiring to be politicians, but those from all sectors of American society.

“As an elected school board member, I recite the Pledge of Allegiance on televised public meetings,” writes Victor Ghalib Begg of the Detroit Free Press.  “As a practicing Muslim, I see no contradiction between Islam and pledging allegiance to our flag.” Begg is one of many Muslims to speak out against Carson’s comments and the damage they inflict on the continued struggle of Muslim Americans against religious prejudices.

Carson’s outsider comments do not match the views of the millions of Muslim Americans on the intersection of their faith with their values as American citizens. If he is going to make this exclusive claim, he must be willing to stand in front of Muslim American soldiers serving our country and explain how their practices are “inconsistent with the values and principles of America.”

With all the present conflicts in which we are engaged in the Middle East, many seem to forget that Islam and Christianity, two of the most dominant religions in American culture, both originated from the same Abrahamic origins. But what many people do not know is that Islam, which means “submission to the will of God,” and the associated Sharia law, were formulated with the purpose of establishing public order at a time when tribal society was rife with inequality and conflict. Obedience to a united will and setting aside individual pursuits for the good of all is central to the faith, because it creates a strength and unity between members of the religion.

The reason that the Islamic faith is seen as threatening by people like Carson is because of the examples seen abroad of the faith being touted as the cornerstone of anti-Western campaigns. But to believe Islam to be inherently anti-American is to ignore the long and complex history of the relations between Western countries and those in the Middle East.

The reason that extremist groups and religious nations have spoken and acted out against the U.S. is because of the tremendous instability and destruction in those regions of the world at the hands of Western countries like the U.S. For centuries, our country and others, such as Great Britain, have interfered in the Middle East and dictated which groups receive what lands. These interventions have caused conflicts in regions that previously coexisted with few troubles by forcing groups of people with alternative values to participate in a land struggle.

The foundations of Islam are based on the establishment of public order to help promote prosperity in the long-term. Muslim countries were forced to exchange land and to live under new rules, so it is no wonder that concentrated groups turned to the most extreme versions of their Sharia laws to try and recreate a stable environment.

While we of course do not condone the acts of terror done to our country by jihadist groups, it is imperative to understand the underlying causes of these acts. Ben Carson’s seeming incomprehension of the effects of his words on so many American citizens, as well as their juvenile foundation in foreign affairs, demonstrates a severe lack of preparedness for the duties and responsibilities of the office of the president.