This article originally appeared on the personal blog of IRD board member and Presbyterian clergyman Mateen Elass. It is cross-posted with permission and can be viewed here.
I rarely venture into the world of national politics, but two troubling stories involving Islam have made ripples in the news recently.
Late last week in Texas, a Muslim teenager got in trouble for bringing a homemade digital clock to school. Even though the device was suspicious-looking, was housed in container looking like an attache case, and drew attention to itself for making a beeping sound when plugged in, and even though in these days of heightened concern about keeping schools safe from violence the school administration rightly took precautionary measures, and even though when detained and questioned by authorities the teen refused to answer any questions other than to say the device was a homemade clock, nevertheless this incident made the news as an example of Islamophobia and/or racism run amok. Even before many facts were available to the public, President Obama had already waded into the matter with a tweet: “Cool clock, Ahmed. Want to bring it to the White House?”
Perhaps the matter could have been handled more sensitively — not knowing all the details, I remain agnostic on that question. But the President’s self-insertion to this event raises serious questions. First of all, does he not have more important matters needing his valuable time than a case of overzealous, protective school administrators? How about ISIS beheading Christians? Or twelve million plus homeless Syrians? Or the potential for infiltrating Muslim terrorists among those streaming across our porous borders? How about the shrinking middle class, historically low work-force ratio, the rising murder rates in our cities, the callous attacks on law enforcement across the country, the increasingly indifference to the value of life in our culture as evidenced by the Planned Parenthood travesty of selling baby body parts as commodities? What about Iran? North Korea? Russian occupation of Crimea and even more recent meddling in Ukraine and Syria? Chinese hegemony over the South China Sea? Our political and religious prisoners languishing in the Islamic regimes of Iran and Pakistan? Are there not enough issues of importance to occupy our President’s time that he finds himself concerned enough to turn his energies to commenting on a small matter without waiting to learn all the facts?
Some may think I’m being too hard on Mr. Obama. After all, we all have “down time” during which we blow off steam, or engage in trivial pursuits. It doesn’t take much time to fire off a tweet. So true. But the President could have had his staff contact the Mohammed family privately and arrange a White House visit away from public view. By using Twitter, the President made a statement siding with a “Muslim student of color” over against school and law enforcement authorities, thereby further driving a wedge of division into elements of our society with regard to race and Islam.
Am I overreacting? A few days ago, also in Texas, another teenager received an in-school detention for breaking the school’s dress code. Under his hoodie (which was legal) he was wearing a patriotic tee shirt hidden from view that sported the stars and stripes and image of the American bald eagle, one of the symbols of our nation. A teacher asked him to lift his hoodie, and then cited him for wearing a prohibited item of clothing. Though he suffered detention that day, within twenty-four hours the principal apologized for an overzealous application of school rules. As with the clock kerfuffle, no harm no foul. However, I’ve not seen reports of any tweet from POTUS saying, “Cool shirt, Jaegur. Want to wear it to the White House?” Why not? I guess such matters aren’t worth tweeting about in the President’s down time.
The other issue in the news is Republican candidate Ben Carson’s interview comments declaring his personal opposition to the future possibility of a Muslim President. Within less than a day, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR — an organization with demonstrated ties to the Palestinian Muslim terror group Hamas) decried Carson’s “unconstitutional, un-American, racist and Islamophobic remarks” and demanded that he step down from the 2016 presidential race. There is a growing rumble in liberal political circles that Dr. Carson must be unfit to hold office after espousing such views.
But what, exactly, did he declare? That the principles of orthodox Islam and of the U.S. Constitution are largely incompatible. If that is true, then an orthodox Muslim (who is committed to furthering the goals of Islam) would by his/her very beliefs be committed to working against the principles of the Constitution. Such a person could not with integrity take the presidential vow to “…preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
Some religiously uninformed commentators have railed against Carson that he seeks to impose a religious test on presidential candidates, contrary to an express prohibition of this in Article 6 of the U.S. Constitution. If adherence to Islam is out, then what about Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Mormonism, etc.? The answer to this is: only Islam, out of all these religions, seeks by divine fiat to establish itself as an earthly Kingdom, envisioning a day when all nation-states are subsumed under the banner of Islam and the world lives together as the “ummah” — the society of believers governed directly by one Caliph under the divine Law revealed by Allah. An orthodox Muslim president would by definition be committed to this world view over and against the U.S. Constitution, working behind the scenes if not publicly to pave the way for the USA ultimately to become part of the worldwide ummah of Islam.
Orthodox Islam teaches that Allah has given to the world through Islam this all-encompassing, unchanging moral and societal Law known as Shariah. Any country refusing to adopt or abide by Shariah is living in rebellion against Allah. It is incumbent upon true Muslims to work for the establishment of Shariah, and the punishment of the non-compliant in places where Shariah has already been established. Embedded within this perfect, unchangeable Law are such principles:
- Democracy (defined as the right of a people to govern themselves by laws established by majority vote) is forbidden in Islam — since Allah has given his perfect Law, any votes by human society to institute something at variance with Shariah are signs of “fitnah” (rebellion), where human beings are substituting their own will for that of Allah. As such they are unbelievers, and worthy of death.
- Women do not have equal rights with men — their testimony carries half the weight of a man’s in court; a Muslim man can marry up to four wives at a time, including Christian or Jewish women, but a Muslim woman can only have one husband, who must be a Muslim; if a wife is disobedient, the husband under some circumstances has the right to beat her until she submits once again to him; she is prohibited from divorcing her husband with few exceptions, but he can divorce her for any reason he chooses; a woman under most circumstances cannot inherit amounts equal to what her male siblings receive; and so on.
- Non-Muslims do not have equal rights with Muslims — they are legally treated as second-class citizens (known as dhimmi), forced to pay a head-tax (known as jizya) and oppressed until the “feel themselves subdued,” according to wording from the Quran (9:29). If they kill a Muslim, they shall be killed in return, but if a Muslim kills a non-Muslim, he is not subject to the death penalty.
- Freedom of religion is severely circumscribed — Christians and Jews (and a few other monotheistic groups) are allowed to practice their faith privately, but cannot openly worship or invite others to join them; if their houses of worship are damaged or fall into disrepair, they cannot fix or rebuild them; polytheists or atheists are not tolerated, but instead given the ultimatum to choose Islam or die; likewise, any remarks deemed insulting to Allah, Muhammad or the Quran are punishable by death — this includes academic, philosophical or religious questioning of accepted orthodoxy.
- Shariah demands that Muslims support the cause of jihad, wherever it is has been rightly commanded (by order of the Caliph). Whether or not a Muslim actively fights in jihad, he has an obligation to support the efforts and goals of jihad. How would such a position impact the foreign policy of a Muslim president when the interests of the United States and those of jihadists were at odds?
Ben Carson made clear in his statement (and again in follow-up interviews) that he was speaking only of an orthodox Muslim President, one who accepts Shariah as divine Law, the Quran as ultimate truth, Islam as the supreme religion with a privileged place in the world. He declared that if a Muslim candidate for President openly renounced allegiance to these convictions, then such a candidate would not be a threat to the Constitution, and Carson would have no problem with him/her. Of course, such a person would no longer be an orthodox Muslim, either, simply one in name only.
In that case, they could easily join the large club with other possible presidential contenders every four years, who by and large claim to be of one religious flavor or another, and often prove to be so, in name only.