The target has moved.
For years, Republican political candidates have invoked fear by demonizing African-Americans and Hispanics. Now, those ethnic targets have moved, ever so slightly, but nevertheless moved, toward Muslims.
Not that it is anything new. Muslims have been unfairly suspect since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. And African-Americans and Hispanics continue to receive their share of blame for all sorts of problems.
The recent headlines, however, have been dominated by Republican presidential candidate and neurosurgeon Ben Carson. And, as with all such unwarranted attacks, it is not pretty, and, in fact, so un-American it would be laughable if not so serious.
Carson, appearing on “Meet the Press” Sept. 20, declared that Muslims are not fit to run for president or occupy the White House. He then told the newspaper The Hill that Shariah law isn’t consistent with the U.S. Constitution because, “Muslims feel that their religion is very much a part of your public life and what you do as a public official, and that’s inconsistent with our principles and our Constitution.”
Not to be outdone in this political reality show that is looking much like an episode of “Survivor,” frontrunner Donald Trump stirred up a storm when he allowed a town hall questioner to run on and on about needing to rid the country of Muslims and that “our current president is one.”
It could have been Trump’s Sen. John McCain moment (who corrected a woman during the 2008 campaign), but it wasn’t.
Trump, who was one of the leading “birthers” when Barack Obama’s ran for president, simply said, “We’re going to be looking at that and plenty of other things.”
Carson remains unapologetic, even boasting that his poll numbers have increased and that contributions are coming in faster than they can count the money. That might be true, but if it is money and support based solely on his attack on Muslims, it is tainted money and shameful support.
The latest polls show that overall interest in the race for the presidency is still low. It’s simply too early. So, the bump Carson claims is likely coming from a small, but vocal and motivated percentage of voters.
This has been written before by many others, but it’s worth repeating one more time for Carson and his supporters, Article VI of the Constitution says: “…no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any officer or public trust under the United States.”
That makes it clear that whatever faith, or no faith at all, one has is none of the government’s business.
Shariah law has been used as a scare tactic by politicians. They continue to claim that Muslims want Shariah law to supplant the Constitution. Most Muslim-Americans understand that will never happen, nor do they want it to.
Unfortunately, Shariah law as well as the Quran have been misinterpreted by some Americans and politicians intent on demonizing all Muslims. It also has been misused by some Islamic radicals to further their cause of terrorism. Knowledge is the key to understanding. If more Americans understood Shariah law and its place in the Islamic faith, they certainly would be less fearful.
For now, however, the Republican political landscape is dominated by a very wealthy, developer and TV star, a doctor and a former businesswoman (Carly Fiorina). It continues to be a race against the Republican establishment.
In his speech to Congress Thursday, Pope Francis urged Americans to follow the Golden Rule (“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”). While discussing the division in the world, he said: “Our world is increasingly a place of violent conflict, hatred and brutal atrocities, committed even in the name of God and of religion. We know that no religion is immune from forms of individual delusion or ideological extremism.”
He then added this: “But there is another temptation that we must especially guard against: the simplistic reductionism that sees only good or evil, or, if you will, the righteous and sinners.”
Wise words from a wise man. But don’t expect Carson or Trump, or a lot of other people, to pay attention as long as the polls jump up and the money rolls in.
And as long as that goes on, both will continue their target practice.