The surging Republican frontrunner, Ben Carson, was recently asked if he thought Islam was compatible with the Constitution. He replied, “No, I do not.”
When asked if a Muslim ought to be president, he said, “I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that.”
Later he clarified by saying, “I’m assuming that if you accept all the tenets of Islam that you would have a very difficult time abiding under the Constitution of the United States.”
It’s quite unfortunate that such an intelligent, well-established man like Carson would say something so ignorant. It’s quite ironic that he claims to be campaigning on not being “politically correct” in order to clearly speak truth to the masses.
While being factually incorrect, this type of speech is in fact politically correct to the type of voters he is trying to rally behind him. The truth is, the vast majority of devout Muslims I know are in complete disagreement with Carson’s claims, and I haven’t met one Muslim who isn’t offended by his statements.
We are deeply troubled by the emergence of al-Qaida, ISIS and other violent groups that have cast a dark shadow over our faith over the last 14 years. Similarly, we disagree with most of the “popular” interpretations of Islamic Law by Saudi Arabia, Iran and the Taliban.
What you are seeing in some of the majority-Muslim nations today is the reason many European countries became secular democracies. The people of Europe found that under Christian rule there was much oppression and injustice in the name of “the church,” which often justified itself with Scriptures.
The message of the Bible is not to blame for those injustices nor is “the church.” Rather, it was the people who used religion for their political goals who were at fault.
I wouldn’t say this means that a devout Christian shouldn’t lead America even though the same was said by many Americans in 1960 regarding JFK’s potential presidency. They said that because he was a Catholic, his allegiance would be in question.
Another parallel would be the Ku Klux Klan and the crimes it committed in America while also playing a significant role in the political arena, which enabled it to literally get away with murder. Do we blame Protestant Christianity, which Klansmen declared deep devotion to as they quoted Scripture to back up their hate and bigotry?
Of course not. In Israel, there is the ultra-Orthodox Shas party of today which has minor representation in the government, but with more significant influence among Israeli Orthodox Jews. Its founder, Chief Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, said, “Non-Jews were created to serve the people of Israel like donkeys.”
He later clarified that “the life of non-Jews is only preserved for the economic interests of the people of Israel.” Is Judaism to blame for this top scholar’s interpretation? Of course not. How do I know that? Through my Jewish friends and my humble reading of the Jewish Scriptures of the Bible.
The correct attitude I hope Carson was somehow trying to express would be: Whoever would seek to politically promote an interpretation of any religion in a way that would conflict with American values should not be considered a candidate to represent the American people.
But this statement is unnecessary because, of course, the vast majority of Americans would never vote for a Klansman, Wahhabi or a member of the Jewish Defense League.
The bottom line is, there is nothing that a Muslim would have to reject from Islam in order to comfortably integrate or even become a representative American leader.
I have found that abundantly clear in my few hours personally visiting with now fifth-term Muslim Congressman Keith Ellison. Those who truly understand how Islamic Law (Shariah) guides the lives of American Muslims know that it only encourages us to be morally upright, productive citizens who respect the law of the land.
Imam John Ederer is imam at the Tulsa Islamic Society. Ederer will be speaking along with Rabbi Charles Sherman and the Rev. Prof. Charles Kimball at an event called “Should We Fear Islam” hosted and sponsored by the Southeast Campus of TCC from 3 to 5 p.m. on Nov. 15.