“I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation … I absolutely would not agree with that.”
Replace “Muslim” with Catholic, or Jew, or woman — and ask if you feel any differently about the above statement. Because historically speaking, each of these demographics have had to suffer through this exact form of public discrimination, and in each case the intolerant voice ended up on the wrong side of history. Thus, hopefully you understand why it is unacceptable for GOP presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson to promote such narrow-mindedness against American Muslims.
Dr. Carson provided the above response when he was asked whether Islam is consistent with the United States Constitution. Let’s pause. Dr. Carson is not a Muslim, let alone an Islamic theologian. Likewise, Dr. Carson is not a lawyer, let alone a Constitutional scholar. With two strikes against him, the safe bet would’ve been to recite the First Amendment protection of religious freedom, and likewise America’s strong commitment to a separation of religion and state. One need not be an Islamic scholar or a Constitutional scholar to provide this basic answer.
But with two strikes already against him, Dr. Carson struck out when he instead advocated against a Muslim becoming President because of their faith. Dr. Carson did not hold fast to foundational Constitutional principles, but instead demonstrated his ignorance of both Islam and the Constitution.
Of course, the Constitution is explicitly clear in Article VI, paragraph 3 that, “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” America’s founding fathers sought to escape religious persecution, not create a nation with more religious discrimination. None other than George Washington wrote, in a letter, that he would welcome “Mahometans” to his estate, provided they were “good workers.” Thomas Jefferson likewise incessantly demanded recognition of equal religious freedoms and rights of the “Mahamdan, the Jew, and the pagan.” American history records that Benjamin Rush, the Pennsylvania signer of the Declaration of Independence and friend of Adams and Jefferson, applauded Islam, asserting that he would “rather see the opinions of Confucius or Mohammed inculcated upon our youth than see them grow up wholly devoid of a system of religious principles.”
America’s founders saw no conflict between Islam and the United States Constitution. Who then, is Dr. Carson to disagree?
And should Dr. Carson study the Qur’an, he would discover that Islam does not specify any specific form of government, other than a beneficent government based on absolute justice. In 4:59 God declares, “Allah commands you to give over the trusts to those entitled to them, and that when you judge between men you judge with justice.” This is a critical point. Dr. Carson should take note that the Qur’an commands that justice — not religion, gender, or race — is the standard by which a government must run. In complete cohesion to this Qur’anic teaching, the United States Constitution likewise seeks to rule with justice and rejects religion, gender, or race as the determinative factor to govern. Accordingly, the U.S. Constitution is in fact the most Shariah compliant Constitution in existence today.
The fact is, religion should not be the business of the state, a view to which the overwhelming number of American Muslims adhere. As one prominent example, as Muslims who believe in the Messiah, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community has a clear vision that religion should not legislate in the domain of man’s relation to God. Islam offers guiding principles in matters of man’s relation to man. These principles can easily be translated into secular laws based on justice, tolerance, and love for all humanity. It is under these principles that the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA has launched the Muslims for Life, Muslims for Loyalty, and Muslims for Peace campaigns.
Yes, as true Shariah is based on absolute justice and freedom of conscience, it is conducive to a system of government that is beneficent, ensures universal human rights, and protects minority rights. And undoubtedly, Islam teaches that should a conflict exist between religion and state, the secular law of one’s country of residence has predominance over all other laws.
But if Dr. Carson expects to become President by behaving counter to the pluralistic examples set forth by America’s founding fathers regarding religious freedom, then all I can say is, “I would not advocate that we put Dr. Carson in charge of this nation…I absolutely would not agree with that.”
Qasim Rashid is an attorney, author, national spokesperson for the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA, and Visiting Fellow at Harvard University. Follow him on Twitter @MuslimIQ.