Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson ruffled some feathers on Sunday when he told NBC’s Meet the Press, “I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that.” Most politicians and media members are quick to call for him to apologize while pointing out there is no religious test to run for office in the constitution. But is what he said really so wrong and insensitive?
The likes of Ted Cruz and others are certainly correct in their assessment of what the constitution says on the matter. Article 6 states, “… no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” But take quick notice on what exactly Dr. Carson said. “I would not advocate…”. He’s giving his personal opinion on the matter, not a legal expository. So again I ask, is what he said really so wrong and insensitive?
Of course the crux of the issue is not Muslims precisely, but religion generally. Should a candidate’s religion have any bearing on whether we vote for them? We’ve had a long stretch of presidents, all of them if I’m not mistaken, who have professed some form of Christianity. This is something of a new question at our feet today because for the longest time we’ve been picking between one form of the same basic religion. But even then it hasn’t been entirely without controversy. Those of you old enough to remember may recall many Protestant Christians holding reservations about voting for John F. Kennedy, a Catholic. The question was whether Kennedy could make important national decisions independent of the church. In many ways that concern is what Dr. Carson is bringing back to light again.
But is this a concern based in reality? Would a Muslim President hold different allegiances than a Christian president? What about an atheist president? What about the allegiances of a Satanist? If you have to pause and think for a moment at any of those possibilities, then perhaps you aren’t as far from Dr. Carson’s concerns as you think you may be. When entertaining this question about Muslims there are at least two potential areas of concern we should think of; anti-western/American terrorism, and Sharia Law.
One no sooner brings up terrorism in a conversation about Muslims than you are guilty of profiling at best, or called a racist at worst. So get those insults out of the way, but I’ll join Bill Maher (warning: foul language in linked video) in my reasoning for bringing it up; for the last 30+ years it’s been primarily one culture (religion) blowing things up over and over again. So, yeah, that concern is real. But is it a real concern for a potential President? I have two reasons I don’t think it is.
One, the methods which Islamic terrorists use inside the countries they wish to bring down are those of the covert nature; secrecy, hiding, concealing… not running for public office. Second, becoming President carries with it the requirement to take an oath to protect the country against all enemies foreign and domestic, and uphold the constitution. Muslims have a similar prohibition to taking a false oath as Jews and Christians do. In fact, it’s apparently the 18th greater sin and according to Surah Āli-‘Imrān 3:77 carries with it instant ineligibility for Divine Mercy on the Day of Judgment. A Muslim swearing to uphold and protect the United States and it’s constitution would be doing just that.
The second reason for concern, which I think is a greater concern, is the implementation of Sharia Law. Sharia is the Islamic legal system derived from the Quran and the Hadith (the collection of quotes from Muhammad on specific matters). This is a law which includes amputation as the penalty for theft, 100 lashes for premarital sex, non-Muslim lives are treated as no more than half as valuable as Muslim life, and a woman’s testimony is worth half that of a man’s as well as a host of other unspeakable criminal penalties and humanitarian injustices. In other words, the spirit of sharia law is wholly against that of U.S. Law and freedoms. And in case you’re thinking these are just religious doctrines, think again. Sharia governs crime, politics, economics, sexuality, banking, business law, contract law and social issues. For a faithful Muslim, sharia is considered the infallible law of God.
I should stress here that just because a Muslim seeks political office doesn’t mean they seek to one day impose Sharia law on our land. There are two members of the U.S. Congress who are Muslims (Rep. Ellison-IL, Rep. Carson-IN) and neither of them have made any strides to that end. But it’s a question that is rightfully asked; would a Muslim seeking political office hope to enact portions of sharia law? I think it’s a question we should ask and make a careful examination of the answers.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that Dr. Carson isn’t in too bad of company. In 1772, Founding Father Sam Adams wrote in his “The Right of the Colonists” a bit about religion and tolerance as it pertains to living in the new society they hoped to form..
“In regard to religion, mutual toleration in the different professions thereof is what all good and candid minds in all ages have ever practised [sic], and, both by precept and example, inculcated on mankind. And it is now generally agreed among Christians that this spirit of toleration, in the fullest extent consistent with the being of civil society, is the chief characteristical [sic] mark of the Church. Insomuch that Mr. Locke has asserted and proved, beyond the possibility of contradiction on any solid ground, that such toleration ought to be extended to all whose doctrines are not subversive of society. The only sects which he thinks ought to be, and which by all wise laws are excluded from such toleration, are those who teach doctrines subversive of the civil government under which they live.”
We don’t see too many Mormons, Buddhists or Rastafarians decapitating infidels today. But that is something we find Muslims doing (in however small numbers) across the globe. They’re motivated by their devotion to Muhammad, which trumps any allegiances they may temporarily hold to the governing bodies of the land in which they reside. Perhaps Dr. Carson is onto something.