early and often

Ben Carson Would Have a Muslim on the Supreme Court, If They Don’t Practice Islam

Heritage Foundation Take Back America Presidential Forum in Greenville, SC
Ben Carson. Photo: Richard Ellis/Corbis

It’s pretty clear by now that presidential candidate Ben Carson doesn’t know much about Islam as most Muslims practice it, and doesn’t consider a Muslim capable of embracing the values enshrined in the U.S. Constitution without rejecting some fundamental tenets of their faith. Given his lower-than-Wikipedia-level understanding of Sharia (Islamic religious law) and how it applies to the everyday life of a practicing Muslim, it’s no wonder he wouldn’t support a Muslim president of the United States.

So it came as no surprise on Thursday when we learned that he would apply the same religious test to Supreme Court justices. In an interview with right-wing radio host Hugh Hewitt, Carson said he would be willing to appoint a Muslim to the nation’s highest court if they rejected the “lifestyle … which incorporates Sharia.”

Carson went on to speculate about the Senate confirmation hearings of this hypothetical Muslim nominee, in which they would have to be questioned about their religious background to determine whether they embrace the dreaded Sharia, which he described as “more than just a relationship — it’s a political aspect and a whole style of living.”

Sharia refers to the whole set of religious laws that govern Muslims’ individual and collective conduct. It informs the legislation of many (but by no means all) Muslim countries, mainly in personal-status laws governing marriage and divorce. A few countries — Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Pakistan among them — apply Sharia in full, while radical Islamic groups like ISIS and Boko Haram enforce an extreme interpretation of the law in the territories they control.

Sharia also includes the principles by which observant Muslims comport themselves, such as abstinence from alcohol, gambling, and premarital sex. For most Muslims, including Americans, that’s the extent to which they embrace the “Sharia lifestyle” of Carson’s nightmares. Indeed, Ben Carson himself could be obeying Sharia at this very moment and not even know it.

Despite recent fearmongering by conservatives about “creeping Sharia” and “preemptive strikes” by states such as Oklahoma to ban its use in their courts, Islamic law is not enforceable in the United States and never will be. American Muslims are not keen on making it so, either: Though solid data on this subject is hard to come by, a highly flawed survey by an Islamophobic think tank earlier this year only managed to turn up 51 percent of Muslim Americans in favor of giving Muslims the option of being governed by it.

In any case, a fundamentalist Muslim looking to implement Sharia would probably have little interest in participating in the infidel court system of an illegitimate secular state, so Hugh Hewitt’s hypothetical is pretty ridiculous all around.

At his interviewer’s prodding, Carson also said he would investigate the background of federal judge Abdul Kallon, who was appointed to an Alabama district court in 2009. The U.S. Senate, including both of Alabama’s Republican senators, confirmed Kallon unanimously, but apparently that’s not good enough for Hugh Hewitt or Ben Carson.

Don’t expect the Muslim-bashing to stop anytime soon, either. As the Washington Examiner points out, Carson “did see a spike in fundraising in the 24-hour period following the comment” declaring Muslims unfit for the presidency. Ka-ching.

Carson Okay With Non-Practicing Muslim on Court