By Zaki Khan
About three weeks ago, republican presidential candidate Ben Carson made statements on live television expressing his sincere belief that a Muslim should never become the President of the United States. The backlash was severe, and media outlets – both left and right – called him out on his bigoted remarks. They even brought him in for follow up interviews to give him a chance to clarify his viewpoints. Hey, the man made some uninformed, rash remarks on live television. He probably didn’t mean what he said… Let’s give him a chance to clear the air; to reaffirm that the Constitution protects individuals against this sort of blanket bigotry, and that of course a Muslim can be president! That’s what he said, right?
Dr. Carson doubled down on his position. When asked if he believes if Islam is consistent with the constitution, he said no (3:15 of this video). He said he wouldn’t “advocate” having a Muslim in charge of this nation. His reasoning? Dr. Carson doesn’t believe that any Muslim who embraces all “doctrines” of Islam, including all the tenets of Sharia Law, should be considered a candidate for U.S. presidency. However, if a Muslim rejects his/her religion, then perhaps, they can be considered for the job.
But here’s the troubling part, and something that CNN’s Jake Tapper eloquently pointed out to Dr. Carson in their recent interview (video above). When Dr. Carson thinks of a Muslim in America, he immediately thinks of an extremist version of a Muslim that would put his religious values above the Constitution. He doesn’t have this same immediate concern when he thinks of a Christian or Jewish candidate running for president, only Muslims. I think this is the most concerning part.
Dr. Carson is not unintelligent – I can’t even count how many years of education you have to go through to become a neurosurgeon. Yet despite his superior intelligence, he still has these profoundly bigoted perceptions of Muslims. To make matters worse, Dr. Carson’s popularity has only increased in the polls since he’s made these headlines. Clearly, many people in America agree with Dr. Carson.
This makes me really, really sad. I’m a Muslim and I was born and raised in America. I’m a proud patriot, and I don’t think there is any reason why my faith should prevent me from being president. I am just as qualified (or in this case, unqualified) as Dr. Carson to be President. America has gone through a lot of growing pains with accepting new groups of immigrants into the country – be they Irish, Italian, Polish, Chinese, Mexican, Japanese, or Jewish (not to mention the way we treated the Native Americans or Africans during the slavery period). We’ve come a long way into accepting many of these groups into mainstream threads of the American fabric, but we still have a long way to go with many of them still. In a lot of ways, Muslims have been the latest immigrant group to come to America, and they don’t just come from one area of the world – they come from Egypt, India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Syria, Lebanon, most countries in Africa, and so many more.
With the rise of extremist factions and terrorist attacks made in the name of Islam, it’s understandable why so many in this country harbor negative views towards these new, unfamiliar faces.
There is no easy way to combat these views, but I can start by giving you my point of view. I’m not an extremist Muslim. I am one of the Muslim majority that believes in peace and simply wants to live a happy life. I am not trying to impose my ways on anyone. In fact, I enjoy hearing about other people’s views and beliefs that are unfamiliar to me. I don’t drink or eat pork, but I still know how to have a great time at parties. I try to pray five times a day but, I’ll be honest, praying once every few days is a good week for me. I plan on performing the pilgrimage to Mecca, and I fast for thirty days during the month of Ramadan (yes, that includes fasting from water). That’s basically it. I’m not a perfect Muslim, and certainly not an exciting one, but I am one of many peace-loving Muslims that are your doctors, lawyers, bankers, athletes, actors, comedians, politicians, teachers, engineers, and so many more.
If you have never met a Muslim, I’d love to meet you. I won’t convince you that we’re all great, but I will show you what an average Muslim is so that you won’t immediately associate us with something bad or un-American. The best part is, you won’t have to go through years of education like Dr. Carson to not figure that out.
Featured image from Wikimedia Commons
Zaki Khan is a Junior studying Business Administration at the Marshall School of Business. He was born and raised in Los Angeles and wouldn’t have it any other way. He is a soccer fanatic but also loves following the NBA, NHL, and various college sports. He is the current president of Kicks for Kids at USC, but in his free time, Zaki likes taking spontaneous drives through the mountains or along the coast, listening to new music, exploring LA food culture, and hanging out with friends.