Interviewed on the SiriusXM satellite radio show Breitbart News Daily yesterday, token brain surgeon Ben Carson told Breitbart Executive Chairman Steven K. Bannon that devout Muslims who embrace American democracy are “schizophrenic.”
Embedded above, the interview focused on Carson’s plans to wage ‘civilizational jihad’ against the so-called Islamic State. Reflecting a profound and deliberate ignorance about the lives of Muslims, Bannon asked Carson whether “sharia-adherent” Muslims are able to participate in a democratic society.
Carson: There’s a difference between Muslims who accept America and accept our constitution and accept our ways and those who want to continue a different method of living and if we’re not sophisticated enough to understand that we will lose that war.
Bannon: Do you think that Muslims that are sharia-adherent can actually be part of a society, be integrated into a society where you have the rule of law, and you are a democratic republic, and you believe in a federal system, and you believe in the rule of law and the separation of church and state no matter what your religious beliefs are, do you think sharia-compliant Muslims can do that?
Carson: Only if they’re schizophrenic. I don’t see how they can do it otherwise, because they have two different philosophies boring at you, which [are] in contradistinction to each other. That would be very difficult. And you know, that’s why Teddy Roosevelt said what he said, he said you’re welcome to come here from any place and any religion as long as you accept our ways and you want to be American. If you don’t, stay where you are.
This is pure malarkey. There are approximately 2.75 million Muslims in the United States, and virtually all of them who observe their religion at all are ‘Sharia-compliant’ to some extent. That’s because sharia is not quite the bogeyman that Breitbart News and a host of right wing websites have dressed it up to be.
Contrary to the fabrications and distortions of professional Islamophobes, ‘sharia law’ is almost entirely about personal, private religious matters, such as prayer, fasting, and family life. For instance, marriages are contracted according to rules that have emerged from communal understanding of the Qur’an, so when a Muslim couple seeks divorce in an American court, their case may require a non-Muslim judge to hear testimony about Islamic law so as to understand the two parties’ expectations when they entered the contract.
But that is a far cry from the doom scenarios found in the hysterical ravings of Muslim-hating crackpots. As practiced in the United States, sharia law is closer to what takes place in rabbinical law or Catholic canon law, neither of which is propagandized as some sort of threat to democracy.
As the American Civil Liberties Union explained in a 2011 report, Nothing to Fear: Debunking the Mythical Sharia Threat to Our Judicial System,
There is no evidence that Islamic law is encroaching on our courts. On the contrary, the court cases cited by anti-Muslim groups as purportedly illustrative of this problem actually show the opposite: Courts treat lawsuits that are brought by Muslims or that address the Islamic faith in the same way that they deal with similar claims brought by people of other faiths or that involve no religion at all. These cases also show that sufficient protections already exist in our legal system to ensure that courts do not become impermissibly entangled with religion or improperly consider, defer to, or apply religious law where it would violate basic principles of U.S. or state public policy.
Nor are fairy tales about Muslim ‘no-go’ zones founded on even a grain of truth. Alcohol is still available in restaurants in Dearborn, Michigan despite the large Muslim population there. ‘Sharia police’ do not exist in any American Muslim community. Yet for most observant Muslims in America, ‘sharia law’ impacts daily life as a matter of course. The vast majority of American Muslims somehow manage to peacefully participate in our democracy without imposing their religious observances on the rest of us — the very thing that Ben Carson says would be “schizophrenic” of them.
Reflecting the zero-sum mindset of today’s conservative, Carson seems to think that religious freedom for Muslims subtracts from his own religious freedom, telling Bannon that “We would be so busy trying to protect their rights that we wouldn’t be watching our own.”
Now running dead last in the nominating race, Carson’s words are a transparent attempt to appeal to the worst elements of grassroots conservatism. Bannon, who also makes conspiracy-addled ‘documentaries’ for the Citizens United organization and is one of the most powerful figures in right wing politics, personally oversees Breitbart writers who spread falsehoods about Islam and further coarsen the conservative conversation. Together, they are an excellent example of why the conservative movement is increasingly indistinguishable from a hate group.