Monday, September 21, 2015

Dr. Carson's historical faux pas

Recently Dr. Ben Carson, running for the Republican nomination for president, suggested that a Muslim might not be sufficiently American to become such. I wonder just what he meant by that — seriously. Apparently he believes, or is simply signaling his potential voters, that only Christians, or perhaps Jews as well, can be true Americans.

Perhaps Dr. Carson ought to remember that Islam has a history in the United States that goes back to its founding. Yes, that long (in those days, Muslims were referred to as “Musselmen”).

Founding Father Thomas Jefferson, in addition to his “edited” Bible, also owned a Qur’an. In addition, if I have my facts straight, many of the Africans brought forcibly to these shores were also Muslims (though we don’t know if they continued to practice once they got here).

And then you have the large number of homegrown Muslims in the African-American community who began embracing Islam in the 1950s as part of a revolutionary ethos thanks to Malcolm X and the then-nascent Nation of Islam, which orthodox Muslims consider a heretical cult. In 1964, in part for that reason, Malcolm left the Nation of Islam, which especially after the death of sect founder Elijah Muhummad collapsed. (Louis Farrakhan revived it, but it doesn’t have the strength it once did.)

We all understand that Muslims perpetrated the terrorist attacks in Sept. 11, 2001. But Muslims also died in those attacks, and in their aftermath an imam in New York immediately and strongly condemned them, even founding Cordoba House, a “Muslim Y,” as an attempt to heal the wounds. In addition, an estimated 10,000 Muslims live in the immediate area.

And I’m willing to bet that the vast majority of them are Americans.

A Muslim group has demanded that Dr. Carson remove himself from the race, but I doubt he will — or even apologize — because of the Islamophobia on that side of the political aisle. But in this country we no longer have religious tests for political offices (some states did at one time, however). Moreover, it seems unfair to brand a particular religion as un-American when it actually has a long history here, so Dr. Carson’s remarks were out of bounds.

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