Last week Ben Carson said, “I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation.” Today Jake Tapper grilled him about that, and Carson made it clear that he was primarily talking about adherence to sharia law:
CARSON: I would have problems with somebody who [is] not willing to reject sharia and all the portions of it that are talked about in the Quran….You have to make a specific declaration and decision to reject the portions of it.
TAPPER: What portions of it?
CARSON: The portions of it that tell you how you treat women. The portions of it that indicate that the kafir, who are the people who are not believers, are subject to different rules. That they can be dominated.
Very famously, in early 2001 a chamber of the European Court of Human Rights agreed about this:
The Court considers that sharia, which faithfully reflects the dogmas and divine rules laid down by religion, is stable and invariable….It is difficult to declare one’s respect for democracy and human rights while at the same time supporting a regime based on sharia, which clearly diverges from Convention values, particularly with regard to its criminal law and criminal procedure, its rules on the legal status of women and the way it intervenes in all spheres of private and public life in accordance with religious precepts.
Two years later, on appeal to the Grand Chamber, this view was upheld:
The Court concurs in the Chamber’s view that sharia is incompatible with the fundamental principles of democracy.
Carson’s main problem, of course, is his apparent belief that there are more than a handful of Muslim Americans who want to impose sharia law on the nation in the first place. There aren’t. That said, no less than the European Court of Human Rights agrees with him in principle that sharia is incompatible with the tenets of democracy and, presumably, therefore the Constitution of the United States as well.
As it happens, I agree with the ECHR on this subject—though I wouldn’t restrict my reservations about religious doctrine and democracy solely to Islam. Therefore, I suppose I agree with Carson in a narrow kind of way. I wouldn’t support a Muslim for president who said that he’d like to see the United States adopt sharia law. I think I’m hardly alone in this. Therefore, instead of endlessly badgering Carson about whether he thinks that every Muslim would “automatically…put their religion ahead of the country,” how about just cutting to the chase and asking him this instead:
- If a Muslim candidate said that he followed the principles of sharia in his private life but had no desire to impose it on the country, would that satisfy you?
- As a Christian, can you assure us that you follow Christian precepts in your private life but have no desire to impose them on the country?
This seems fair, what with the Constitution not favoring one religion over another. In fact, I’d suggest versions of these questions would be fair for any candidate of any faith. And regardless of that faith, once the assurance is given, that should be the end of it unless there’s some very specific reason to believe there’s more to the story.