Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson recently stirred up controversy in an interview on MSNBC’s “Meet the Press,” saying, “I would not advocate putting a Muslim in charge of this nation.”
Upon being asked if one’s faith should matter to voters, he said it depends on what that faith is.
“If it’s inconsistent with the values and principles of America, then of course it should matter, but if it fits within the realm of America and consistent with the Constitution, I have no problem.”
He then said he does not find Islam to be consistent with the Constitution.
“I think it was a foolish statement,” said Jonathan Slater, chair of the journalism and public relations department and faculty co-adviser to Hillel at Plattsburgh State. “It showed poor judgment. It also demonstrated poor familiarity with the Constitution of the United States.”
Slater said Carson’s opinion is of no significance to constitutional matters.
Article VI of the United States Constitution says “…no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”
“Your religion should not even be a factor if you are running for dog-catcher,” Slater said, calling Carson’s comments “silly” and “frivolous.”
Jose Diaz is an alumnus of Plattsburgh State who graduated May 2015. He was a triple major in criminal justice, sociology and Latin American studies.
“One of the main priorities of this country is to be able to practice your religion freely,” Diaz said. He said that when Carson made that point, he contradicted what this country stands for.
“I don’t believe that you being Muslim or being from any specific religious background would conflict with you doing your actual job,” he said.
He also said Carson’s comments act as a blanket statement to regard all Muslims as terrorists.
“There’s always that one race-specific topic that they (Republicans) focus on,” Diaz said, adding that in the previous election, they placed a large focus on President Barack Obama being black. “It’s interesting to see how all these people that are supposed to be trying to lead the country – and this country was built on immigrants – to see how they’re just trying to separate everything.”
Ameet Kumar, an international student from Pakistan and double major in economics and finance, said he understands how these biases can form. As he is not a practitioner of Islam, he said Carson’s comments do not affect him directly.
“I think there will be a bias, of course, because we are human beings, and we are biased, so our values will be influenced by the way we are raised, the family we are raised in, the political values we are raised in,” Kumar said.
He said the values of American Muslim families are “completely different” from those of other Muslim countries because families in countries such as Afghanistan and Pakistan tend to be more conservative.
Kumar said that while he thinks religion is being dragged into the issue, the more important thing is that a candidate intends to serve America, and that he or she uphold the values of the Constitution.
Kumar said the influence of mass media and political campaigns would make it hard for a Muslim candidate to run, because Islam is portrayed in the media as a “warring religion.”
“Again and again, they will target it and make it look like it’s not right for America,” he said.
He also said one can’t know what a person is thinking, and it would be impossible to tell whether a Christian candidate would be better suited for the presidency than a Muslim candidate — or vice versa — until one begins his or her presidency.
“Every human being is different,” Kumar said. “In the end, it comes down to leadership qualities of an individual person, regardless of religion, faith (or) ethnic background.”
Email Tim Lyman at firstname.lastname@example.org