I don’t think that there is any activity that more powerfully reveals the human being’s intellectual and moral defects than that of politics.
This is especially the case when it comes to the one time— presidential elections—when otherwise politically disengaged and, thus, ill-informed, Americans suddenly presume to be experts regarding a field of which they know next to nothing.
Let’s take the latest fake “controversy” surrounding GOP presidential contestant, Dr. Ben Carson.
Carson has elicited some hand-wringing from the usual suspects for remarks he made during an interview on Meet the Press on September 20. “I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation,” Carson said. “I absolutely would not agree with that.”
The problem, as Carson seems to see it, is that the Islamic faith is “inconsistent with the values and principles of America.”
For this, people who wouldn’t ever so much as think to vote for Carson—or any Republican—are insisting that the man has “disqualified” himself from holding the office of the Presidency.
This is rich.
While Dr. Carson’s critics (outside of the Islamic activist bullies at CAIR and some other religious/ethnic chauvinists from the standard propagandist outlets) style themselves “progressives,” their thinking on this matter is actually every bit as provincial, every bit as bigoted, as that of the colonialists and imperialists of yesteryear.
Within the West, largely courtesy of the Christianity that has informed and that continues to inform its collective imagination, it has been centuries that its inhabitants have long insisted upon a separation of a kind between “Church and State,” the Cities of God and Man, the eternal and the temporal orders. Jesus Himself is read as having articulated some such distinction when He memorably commanded His disciples to pay their debts to both God and Caesar.
This separation between the political and religious spheres has been particularly acute in America.
The Islamic tradition, however, is an entirely different matter in this regard. The notion that there must be a separation of “Mosque and State” is utterly alien to the Islamic mind. From the perspective of the latter, the will of Allah and that of the State are, or at least should be, one and the same.
In a word, both in theory and practice, both scripturally and historically, Islam has demanded theocracy. For governments constituted any other way, the devout, practicing Muslim—the Muslim believer who is true to an accurate understanding of his own faith tradition—must have contempt.
Islam is an especially robust version of religious universalism. It doesn’t just prefer that the whole world observe its Sharia law; it insists upon it: The pious Muslim has a duty to Allah to see to it that Sharia law becomes the law of planet Earth.
Thus, when Dr. Carson made the remarks that he made, this, doubtless, is what he had in mind. Far from suggesting that there should be a religious litmus test for the office of the American presidency, Carson’s point in alluding to the Constitution is that it makes no allowances for such tests.
Yet this is why it is incompatible with Islam.
The hard truth is that it is Dr. Carson, not his “progressive” leftist opponents, who are the agents of “intolerance” here. Generally speaking, leftists can always be counted upon to regard religion—any religion—with a good supply of disdain. This disdainfulness is inseparable from their theological illiteracy, an astonishing ignorance of religion that leads them to marginalize or altogether dismiss the religious voice (the voices, in other words, of the vast majority of human beings that have ever lived).
Thus, Carson’s detractors are guilty of the worse sort of bigotry, for in suggesting that Islam and the American Constitutional tradition are compatible, in suggesting that there is no difference between being a good Muslim and being a good American, they have chosen to either ignore or deny what Muslims have been saying for 1400 years.
Carson, in stark contrast, has listened to Muslims in their own voice. He has resisted the imperialistic impulse to impose his own Eurocentric, Christocentric categories upon them.
When asked about Muslims, the Constitution, and the American Presidency, Carson had in mind a practicing Muslim who, as such, believes and must believe in Sharia law and, hence, theocracy. He was not thinking of, say, someone with an Islamic-sounding name and who, from the Islamic perspective, is a Muslim by virtue of his father’s having been a Muslim.
But, of course, I’m sure that Dr. Carson would agree that Barack Hussein Obama should not be, and never should have been, President of the United States either.