Generally speaking, condemning an entire group of people doesn’t make much sense.
That’s the lesson currently being learned by neurosurgeon and Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson, who set the internet alight on Sunday after he told Chuck Todd of NBC’s “Meet the Press” that he would not support a Muslim candidate for the White House.
“I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation,” Carson said. “I absolutely would not agree with that.”
The statement triggered a heated response online and among fellow presidential candidates Ted Cruz, Bobby Jindal, Mike Huckabee, George Pataki, Lindsey Graham, and Rand Paul, all six of whom rejected Carson’s comments as inappropriate. This is partly because Carson’s answer appeared to contradict Article VI, paragraph 3 of the United States Constitution, which mandates that “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” The remarks also directly challenged Carson’s own traditionally inclusive stance on religious issues, as well as his own writings: In his 2012 book, America the Beautiful, he wrote, “As a Christian, I am not the least bit offended by the beliefs of Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, Mormons and so forth. In fact, I am delighted to know that they believe in something that is more likely to make them into a reasonable human being, as long as they don’t allow the religion to be distorted by those seeking power and wealth.”
Carson seems to have abandoned this conciliatory perspective (although he maintains, perplexingly, that Muslims can serve in Congress and the Supreme Court), and is now parroting Islamophobic rhetoric seemingly designed to scare up votes. Many of his critics say his position clumsily labels all followers of Islam unfit for the Oval office. On top of that, the purported theological and legal logic shoring up his claims is muddled at best, and completely nonsensical at worst.