This weekend, Ben Carson made national news with his Islamophobic remarks that a Muslim should not be president of the United States. The story that’s not getting coverage, however, may be even more troubling: Carson’s statements echo those of leading anti-Muslim conspiracy theorist Frank Gaffney. In fact, the two have an ongoing association.
Carson, who’s vying for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, made his anti-Muslim statements during an appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press” when he said, “I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that.” When asked whether he believes that Islam is consistent with the Constitution, Carson responded, “No, I don’t, I do not.”
Carson doubled down on his statements, telling the The Hill:
“I do not believe Sharia is consistent with the Constitution of this country…Muslims feel that their religion is very much a part of your public life and what you do as a public official, and that’s inconsistent with our principles and our Constitution.”
Even Carson’s later attempts to clarify his statements remain deeply troubling. He said, “I could never support a candidate for President of the United States that was Muslim and had not renounced the central tenet of Islam: Sharia law.”
A Page from the Anti-Muslim Playbook
Carson’s comments are not only seriously misinformed; they are right out of anti-Muslim conspiracist Frank Gaffney’s playbook. Here’s just one example: Gaffney — along with other anti-Muslim activists — often claims Muslims can’t be trusted because of an obscure Islamic concept, “taqiyya.”
In an interview with The Hill, Carson said “taqiyya” “encourages [Muslims] to lie to achieve your goals.”
The Washington Post does a good job of explaining how anti-Muslim activists have used the concept to try to discredit Muslims.
Omid Safi, director of Duke University’s Islamic Studies Center told the Post, “the Taqiyya conversation is today part and parcel of the Islamophobic attack against American Muslims,” in which no matter what a Muslim says, he or she can’t be trusted.
Not surprisingly, Gaffney defended Carson’s most recent comments, telling Breitbart News, “[a]dherence to the Sharia is completely antithetical to the Constitution” and that “it should disqualify one from being president of the United States.”
On his organization’s website, Gaffney commended Carson for speaking the “truth” and emphasized how important it was to “combat” those Muslims who are “committed to a program [Shariah] that would destroy our Constitution and the freedoms it guarantees.”
Carson’s prior appearances with Gaffney
It’s not hard to imagine how Carson came to hold such views on Muslims and Shariah, considering his ongoing association with Gaffney.
In fact, on September 18, the Friday before Carson’s NBC appearance, the presidential hopeful joined Gaffney on his radio program to discuss the alleged threat of the “global jihad movement” – a concept peddled by Gaffney and his ilk.
Speaking of the “global jihad movement,” Carson told Gaffney, “it’s an existential threat to us. They want to destroy us and they want to destroy our way of life.”
Additionally, earlier this year, Carson spoke at one of Gaffney’s “national security” events in Iowa.
Gaffney, leading anti-Muslim figurehead
Gaffney is one of leading figureheads within the organized Islamophobia movement in America. After previously serving as Assistant Secretary of Defense in the Reagan administration, he has since turned to a career as a full-time anti-Muslim propagandist.
For years, Gaffney has been sounding the alarm on what he calls the threat of “creeping Shariah” in the U.S. He has previously called Shariah “our time’s totalitarian threat” and has even advocated declaring war on the Islamic doctrine.
In 2010, he and his anti-Muslim colleagues, calling themselves the Team B II, put out a report titled Shariah: The Threat To America: An Exercise In Competitive Analysis. The report, which did not consult any Muslims or Islamic scholars, included various anti-Muslim falsehoods. For instance, it claimed that all Muslims are duty-bound to wage jihad against unbelievers.
Gaffney also has a history of stoking fear of Muslims working in government. In 2011, he advised then Rep. Michele Bachmann’s anti-Muslim, McCarthy-ite investigation of Huma Abedin, a longtime aide to Hillary Clinton, claiming she was a Muslim Brotherhood plant.
Recently, Gaffney has set his sights on Muslim members of congress. Earlier this year, he accused Rep. Andre Carson of being a Muslim Brotherhood operative.
To borrow Gaffney’s term, it is not Sharia that is antithetical to the Constitution, but Carson’s most recent comments about Muslims that are antithetical to what this country stands for. Any citizen, Muslim or not, not only has the right to run for president, but to live without experiencing hate and prejudice based on his or her faith.
Photo credit: C-SPAN