In a week that included a 14 year old nerd Ahmed Mohammad being arrested at school for a science project and a supporter at a Trump rally stating “We have a problem in this country; it’s called Muslims” without rebuke, Ben Carson, currently in second place for the Republican Presidential nomination, ended the week when he said “I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that.”
Ahmed Mohammad received lots of support though some like Bill Maher and Richard Dawkins have made dubious claims against the teen claiming that the arrest was justified or the teen staged an elaborate hoax, Donald Trump has come out and said he has plenty of Muslim friends and that he shouldn’t be held accountable for what people say at his rallies, and Ben Carson is now walking back his comments as best as he can stating that his words were taken out of context.
The issue as I see it has nothing to do with what was said by Ben Carson or the Trump supporter necessarily, it’s what is implied by the statements that prove without a shadow of a doubt that Islamophobia is real, is ugly, and has real world consequences like a 14 year old teen being arrested for something other teens who aren’t Muslims likely would not.
Islamophobia by definition though many claim it doesn’t exist, means that an individual harbors an irrational fear of Muslims and/or Islam. The key word here as with all phobia’s is irrational. In a world that boasts a population of 1.5 billion Muslims, when you hear the claims about Muslims compared with the facts, to still believe in claims like all Muslims are terrorists, are anti-women, hate democracy, etc. to still harbor those beliefs regardless of the facts is an irrational position. So when people believe that the reason behind Ahmed Mohammad’s arrest is perfectly logical because of incidents at schools, even though the facts show that if there was a tragedy at a school, the perpetrator will likely be a White male, ignoring these facts regarding school mass killings, is illogical and point toward islamophobia, especially if the individuals with those beliefs do not have the same ideas about White males.
So what was implied by Ben Carson’s comments on Meet The Press when he stated that he wouldn’t advocate the US electing a Muslim President and that Islam isn’t consistent with the US Constitution? Ben Carson has the right to harbor whatever beliefs he wants to, that is not even up for debate. However, if you’re running to be President of everyone in America, telling 3 million citizens that their faith makes them unworthy to be President and that their beliefs are inconsistent with the US Constitution sets poor precedent and it not consistent with what is expected of a leader.
At issue once again, is this idea that Muslims believe in some different God than the Judeo-Christian God and that we believe in a legal system that is inconsistent with the US Constitution. First and foremost, it doesn’t matter what God Muslims believe or don’t believe when it comes to being an elected official in America, but to state that Muslims do not believe in the God of Abraham, Moses, David, Jesus, and the Prophets of the Bible, points to a juvenile and ignorant understanding of Islamic beliefs and is really an ideological assault by a certain demographic that is hateful, arrogant, and part of an agenda bent on marginalizing a religious community. Secondly, there is this all to common misconception about Shariah Law used as a blunt object against American Muslims to bludgeon and question their motives and beliefs.
Shariah Law, unlike what many non-Muslims who are anti-Islam claim, is not a static legal jurisprudence that is documented in some book, letter, or document that all Muslims read, believe, and swear allegiance to. In fact, there is no complete anything that can be called Shariah Law. What Shariah Law is actually a concept and idea that every Muslim subscribes to in some shape or form that states that when it comes to laws and living your life, one should try to implement them in a manner consistent with those messages revealed by God. The concept of Shariah Law is primarily derived from the Qur’an and Sunnah (example of Muhammad). As such, what is called Shariah Law is as diverse as those who interpret the Qur’an and Sunnah. This is why this argument that Muslims have beliefs inconsistent with the US Constitution or any government is flawed on the premise. There may be Muslims who disagree with elements of the US Constitution and back their claims with examples from the Qur’an and Sunnah, however there may be just as many Muslims who feel differently and back their claims with example from the Qur’an and Sunnah as well. Shariah Law is open to individual interpretation for the most part.
The mistake people make on this topic of Shariah Law concerns the nature of what Shariah includes. Shariah isn’t just about whether or not there should be capital punishment for crimes, the rights of women, the status of minorities, or other hot topic issues. Shariah also includes how Muslims should pray, marry, bury their dead, how to dress, what to eat, and many other day to day activities. In other words, Shariah is no different from any other religion’s laws, cannon, or rules.
This is why it’s extremely disturbing that Muslims are always singled out exclusively as having beliefs incompatible with the US Constitution, laws, and values. There is no religion without questionable things written in their texts. The Bible states that kids should be killed for disobeying parents, women should obey their husbands like a god, and many more horrific things. There have been doctrines in various religions that any modern person would feel are wrong. Yet, we never question whether or not Christians should be allowed to be President or hold elected office when the very book they profess belief in and swear their oaths on, contains so many unsavory and barbaric passages. As Americans, we give our Christian and Jewish elected officials the benefit of the doubt that even though their texts says these things and even though they haven’t been asked to defend, expunge, or repudiate these verses, that they will act on what they have professed in their campaigns and abide by the oaths they swore to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States of America.
This question of whether or not Muslims can be just as loyal or abide by the oaths we swear, is why allegations of islamophobia are relevant. Ben Carson’s comments, just like those often professed by members of the Republican Party and even members of the Left like Richard Dawkins and Bill Maher, that somehow place American Muslims in this unique category different from any other religion regardless of a textual comparison, is very disturbing and should be exposed for the bigotry that it is. I personally find these recent discussions extremely abhorrent because unlike Ben Carson, Donald Trump, Richard Dawkins, Bill Maher, and many others who harbor these beliefs, I along with 2 members of Congress Andre Carson and Keith Ellison, and hundreds of veterans, have actually sworn oaths to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States of America and have kept those oaths by serving honorably. Some have even given their lives on the battlefield as recently called to attention by Senator Harry Reid concerning Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan, a Muslim member of the US Army who died in defense of America. Khan was also awarded a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart.
We cannot continue to allow these comments that single out a single religious minority in America to stand. We would not allow it for any other group and our history bears witness to what harm this type of bigotry can cause. As Catholics, Jews, and others know all too well, the stereotypes, comments, rumors, and allegations can lead to much worse. Islamophobia propagated in comments by Carson, Trump, and others with such large followings, help spread the division in America and ostracism of American Muslims. Right now, in many places in America, Muslims have to fight for their rights to practice their religion freely, to build houses of worship, be able to build cemeteries to bury their dead, and be able to take off from work or school for religious holidays.
When Ben Carson tries to downplay his comments by suggesting that what he meant was that he wouldn’t support anyone who supports theocracy and that as long as Muslims reject those things that he and others feel are inherent in Islam alone, is ridiculous. The presumption that Muslims automatically support theocracy or backward ideas because they are Muslim is why these comments are so inflammatory even after the spin. No one who wants to lead all Americans, should hold ideas that remotely suggest that any religious minority especially one with 3 million members should somehow face a religious litmus test. There is nothing just about judging whether or not Muslims can be President when the appraisal doesn’t consider what Muslims have actually said, done, or even the oaths they have already sworn.
What’s amazing is that the two front-runners of the Republican Party running for President share these views. This says a lot to me as an American, as a Veteran, and as a Muslim, about the vision they have for America, because they do not include me, my family, or my friends.