Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

U.S. Rep. Carson: Linking Faith With Fitness For Office Is 'Asinine'


Two leading Republican presidential candidates are making news over comments they made about the Muslim Americans. Yesterday on NBC's "Meet The Press," Ben Carson said he believes a Muslim should not be president.


BEN CARSON: I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that.

MONTAGNE: Carson also told The Hill newspaper that sharia or Islamic law is inconsistent with the U.S. Constitution, that Muslims believe religion is part of, quote, "what you do as a public official," and that some Muslims believe it is it is acceptable to, quote, "lie to achieve their goals."

Meanwhile, candidate Donald Trump has been widely criticized for not correcting a supporter last week who said that President Obama is a Muslim and not an American. To get reaction from a Congressman who is a Muslim, we have Andre Carson on the phone - no relation to Ben Carson. He's a Democrat from Indiana and one of two Muslim members of Congress. Good morning.

ANDRE CARSON: Good morning. Thanks for having us.

MONTAGNE: And thank you for joining us. Does it surprise you that we are having a national discussion about whether a Muslim should be president?

A. CARSON: You know, saying the United States should not elect a Muslim president is as absurd as saying we should not elect a neurosurgeon as president. Freedom of religion is a founding principle of our nation, and for any candidate to suggest that someone of any faith is unfit for public office to me is simply asinine because the founding fathers were very visionary - still imperfect, as we all are - when they established very clearly and explicitly Article Six of the U.S. Constitution, that there shall not be a religious test to hold public office.

MONTAGNE: So it would be constitutional. Just briefly, what about Muslims sometimes being permitted by their religion to lie?

A. CARSON: Well, I think that there is an historical context that we're dealing with where you look at a statement like that, or some people are extracting the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad or a hadith or something that was extracted during a wartime scenario, when women and the poor were trying to be protected. Any of us can use any kind of religious text to abuse it. I mean, we've been told for years Scripture has been used, biblical verses have been used to oppress various groups across the world. And so any religious text or scripture can be misappropriated and abused for political gain.

MONTAGNE: You know, I wonder if it concerns you that the conversation has been framed around the idea that being called a Muslim is something that a person should be defended from, that is, it's an essentially bad thing.

A. CARSON: Well, listen, I think that being a Muslim is a positive thing, just like being Jewish or Christian or Sikh or Hindu, even non-theist. You know, it's about who you are as a person. I think that we all share some kind of commonality. There's a common thread. We know it to be the Golden Rule - do unto others as you would have them do unto you. And I think that is the best way to live as a human being, regardless of your race and regardless of your religious affiliation.

MONTAGNE: Well, thank you for joining us.

A. CARSON: What an honor. Thank you.

MONTAGNE: Congressman Andre Carson is a Democrat from Indiana. He's one of two Muslim members of Congress. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.