Presidential candidates from both parties have weighed in after leading Republican Ben Carson said no Muslim should be president of the United States of America, with some criticising the former neurosurgeon but many giving a more equivocal response.
In an interview with NBC for broadcast on Sunday morning, the retired neurosurgeon said: “I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that.”
Carson was asked: “So do you believe that Islam is consistent with the constitution?”
“No,” he said, “I don’t, I do not.”
Article VI of the US constitution states: “No religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”
The first amendment to the constitution begins: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof …”
Here are responses from his fellow presidential candidates:
South Carolina senator Lindsey Graham rebuked Carson for his comments on Twitter on Sunday. Graham, a long-shot candidate in the Republican primary wrote that Carson “is not ready to be Commander-in-Chief. America is an idea, not owned by a particular religion.” He added in a follow-up tweet that Carson “needs to apologize to American Muslims. He is a good doctor, but clearly not prepared to lead a great nation.” Graham amplified his criticism in an interview with Fox News in which he cited the service of thousands of Muslims in the US armed forces.
Ardent conservative Ted Cruz expressed his disagreement with Carson in more measured words. In an interview with Iowa public television, the Texas senator said: “You know, the constitution specifies there shall be no religious test for public office and I am a constitutionalist.”
Ohio governor John Kasich has not yet commented on Carson’s remarks. But before Carson’s interview Kasich was also asked by NBC if he “would ever have a problem with a Muslim becoming president”. Although Kasich did not say he would have a problem with a Muslim president, he did not directly address the issue and answered the question more broadly. “You know, I mean, that’s such a hypothetical question,” Kasich said. “The answer is, at the end of the day, you’ve got to go through the rigours, and people will look at everything. But, for me, the most important thing about being president is you have leadership skills, you know what you’re doing, and you can help fix this country and raise this country. Those are the qualifications that matter to me.”
Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal issued a statement on Monday saying: “This is a dumb game that the press is playing. It is an absurd hypothetical question.” He then said: “If you can find me a Muslim candidate who is a Republican, who will fight hard to protect religious liberty, who will respect the Judeo-Christian heritage of America … I will be happy to consider voting for him or her.”
Kentucky senator Rand Paul did not indicate he would have any objections to a Muslim president in an interview on CBS Sunday. Instead, Paul tried to understand the skepticism that some might have about a Muslim president. “I think, it’s not so much what religion you are, it’s what you stand for. But I don’t think that we’re really anywhere near that – probably that happening because they’re a small minority in our – in our population.
“But I think we – the hard part is, is while we are a very pluralistic society and we’re open to all religions, more free than any other country, the problem we have is that people have been attacking us have been all of one religion and it’s hard to separate that. And so I understand people saying, oh my goodness, you know, how could that happen?”
He added: “I try to see that as a separate thing, someone’s religion. I just think it’s hard for us. We were attacked by people who were all Muslim.”
The real estate mogul said in an interview Sunday morning when asked if he could ever imagine supporting or being comfortable with a Muslim president: “You know, it’s something that could happen. Would I be comfortable? I don’t know if we have to address it right now. But I think it is certainly something that could happen.”
While former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee declined to directly attack Carson in an interview with Fox Business Network on Monday, he made clear he disagreed. “There’s no religious test for a person to hold public office in America,” said Huckabee. “I think it would depend on the individual. I don’t think we ought to just disqualify from somebody because of his or her faith.”
The former New York governor vehemently disagreed with Carson. He said in an interview: “Dr Carson is wrong too. You know, they said the same thing back in the past, you couldn’t have a Catholic president, you couldn’t have a Jewish president, you couldn’t have an African American or a women president and now Dr Carson is saying you can’t have a Muslim president and I think it is just wrong.” In Pataki’s opinion “it comes down to respect for our system of government, respect for the constitution”.
In the Democratic field, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont issued a statement Sunday saying: “I am very disappointed that Dr Carson would suggest that a Muslim should not become president of the United States.” Sanders added: “It took us too long to overcome the prejudice against electing a Catholic or an African-American president. People should be elected to office based on their ideas, not their religion or the color of their skin.”
The Democratic frontrunner tweeted:
In a series tweets on Sunday, the former Maryland governor condemned Carson’s comments. In one tweet, he wrote: “American people are better than latest Trump/Carson/GOP anti-Muslim bigotry. Hate is not an American value. #diversityisourgreateststrength”. O’Malley followed up by noting: “It’s sad to see the party of Lincoln being led by candidates who choose bigotry against Muslim-Americans over ‘united we stand.’”
Former Rhode Island governor Lincoln Chafee said Carson should drop out of the race after his comments. Chafee said: “Regarding Dr Carson’s statement that a Muslim shouldn’t be president, Article II Section 1 of our Constitution clearly states the qualifications for the presidency.” He added: “Dr Carson should discontinue his campaign based on making such an uninformed and discriminatory statement that a Muslim shouldn’t be able to ask American voters to have the freedom to make that decision.”
Carson’s comments come in the wake of GOP frontrunner Donald Trump declining to correct a questioner Tuesday who called President Obama a Muslim. The New York real estate mogul has often falsely suggested that Obama was born overseas in the past but has backed away from that claim in recent years.
The Guardian is contacting all the campaigns for their responses to Carson’s comments and will update this article accordingly.
This article titled “Ben Carson’s anti-Muslim comments: what have the other candidates said?” was written by Ben Jacobs and Sabrina Siddiqui in Washington, for theguardian.com on Monday 21st September 2015 17.49 UTC