Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker shot his wad of cash and bowed out of the presidential race Monday. A day before, Dr. Ben Carson may have shot himself in the foot again when he said on “Meet the Press” that he “would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation.”
Last week in these pages, we published our take on the candidate, and this recent remark only adds another obstacle to his bid for office, though he continues to command a spot near the top of the Republican polls.
“Mr. Ben Carson is wrong today to assume and say that American Muslims should not be president of the U.S.,” Nihad Awad, national executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, told ABC News. The group has asked Carson to withdraw from the rest “because he is unfit to lead … his views are in contradiction with the U.S. Constitution.”
Despite the furor around his remarks, Carson maintains his position, and in a later interview with The Hill said, “I do not believe Sharia is consistent with the Constitution of this country.”
Armstrong Williams, a columnist in our paper and an aide to Carson, told Newsmax that Carson never said a Muslim cannot serve as president, but only that he would not support or vote for a Muslim in the office. “Dr. Carson was only expressing his right in terms of what he would vote for and not vote for in terms of whom should be at the helm of running this country,” Williams explained.
Two things seem to require explanation—Article VI of the Constitution, which prohibits a religious test for office holders in the U.S., and Islamic Sharia law. It can be argued that one document refers to a government and the other how individuals must conduct themselves within the strictures of Islam. Even so, the necessity of parsing these distinctions will probably mean little to the media or to proponents on either side of this issue. Supporters of Carson will no doubt stand by him in the same way his adversaries will see this as an opportunity to keep him on the defensive.
Hillary Clinton dismissed Carson’s opinions in a tweet, saying, “Yes,” a Muslim can be president, and “Let’s move on.”
However, Clinton’s aide Huma Abedin, who is a Muslim, was a bit more forthcoming in her first ever tweet, stating, “You can be a proud American, a proud Muslim, and proudly serve this great country. Pride versus prejudice.”
Several Republicans also weighed in on the issue. Sen. Lindsay Graham said that Carson “is not ready to be commander-in-chief. America is an idea, not owned by a particular religion.”
Donald Trump was less vocal on the matter, though it was his failure to respond to an assertion made by a participant at one of his rallies who charged that President Barack Obama is a Muslim that is at the crux of this flair up. “I don’t know if we have to address it right now, but I think it is certainly something that could happen,” Trump said when asked whether he would be comfortable with having a Muslim president.
“For Ben Carson, Donald Trump or any other Republican politician to suggest that someone of any faith is unfit for office is out of touch with who we are as a people,” said Rep. Keith Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress, in a statement. “It’s unimaginable that the leading GOP presidential candidates are resorting to fearmongering to benefit their campaigns, and every American should be disturbed that these national figures are engaging in and tolerating blatant acts of religious bigotry.”
According to the latest report, Carson may have accepted a meeting with Muslim leaders to air out things, but given all the time before the first primaries, there is sure to be more flak to fall and to follow.