CAIR Wants Ben Carson to Withdraw from Presidential Race Over Islam Remarks

Patrick Goodenough | September 20, 2015 | 11:28pm EDT
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Republican presidential candidate and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson. (AP Photo / Rainier Ehrhardt, File)

(Updated: Adds video clip from CAIR press conference)

( – The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) plans to call Monday for Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson to withdraw from the 2016 campaign after the retired neurosurgeon said Islam was not consistent with the U.S. Constitution and that he would “absolutely not” advocate having a Muslim in the White House.

“Mr. Carson clearly does not understand or care about the Constitution, which states that ‘no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office,’” said CAIR national executive director Nihad Awad.

“We call on our nation’s political leaders – across the political spectrum – to repudiate these unconstitutional and un-American statements and for Mr. Carson to withdraw from the presidential race.”

CAIR has scheduled a press conference at its DC offices on Capitol Hill on Monday morning, to call on Carson to end his campaign.

Appearing on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday, Carson was asked his views on the faith of an American president.

“Should a president’s faith matter – should your faith matter to voters?” asked host Chuck Todd.

“Well, I guess it depends on what that faith is,” replied Carson. “If it’s inconsistent with the values and principles of America, then of course it should matter. But if it fits within the realm of America and consistent with the Constitution – no problem.”

“So do you believe that Islam is consistent with the Constitution?” Todd asked.

“No, I don’t. I do not,” said Carson, adding, “I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that.”

Todd went on to ask whether Carson would consider voting for a Muslim running for Congress, and said “it depends on who that Muslim is and what their policies are, just as it depends on what anybody else says, you know.”

Todd also asked whether Carson believes Obama is a Christian.

“I believe that he is,” he said. “I have no reason to doubt what he says.”

Trump: ‘I don’t talk about people’s faith’

Earlier in the program, Todd asked GOP campaign frontrunner Donald Trump whether he would be comfortable if a Muslim was ever elected president.

“It’s something that at some point could happen. We’ll see,” Trump said. “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.”

Todd also asked Trump about Obama’s faith and birthplace.

“Why won’t you concede that the president is a Christian and that the president was born in the United States?” he asked.

“Because I don't talk about people’s faith,” Trump said. “Now in all fairness, he said he was a Christian and he said he is a Christian. He attended the church of Reverend [Jeremiah] Wright. And so, you know, I’m willing to take him at his word for that. I have no problem with that.”

Trump declined to talk about the controversy over Obama’s birth certificate, calling it “a long, complex subject that I just don’t like talking about, and I won’t talk about it.”

The White House released Obama’s long-form birth certificate in 2011 in response to suspicions, raised by Trump and others, that the president may not have been born in the United States.

In the latest NBC News survey, Trump continues to lead the 16 Republicans vying for the party’s presidential nomination, at 29 percent – more than twice the support respondents gave Carson, in second place at 14 percent.

Council on American-Islamic Relations national executive director Nihad Awad. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File)

Shari’a-scare tactics’

Last June CAIR, which describes itself as “America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization,” launched a website tracking 2016 presidential candidates’ opinions on Islam.

An early entry on that site complained that Carson in a 2014 op-ed had employed “shari’a-scare tactics” by writing that the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) “and the other advocates of shari’a law are growing rapidly, along with their zeal to eradicate or convert all ‘infidels.’”

Among other early examples of what CAIR labeled “Islamophobia” among 2016 presidential candidates, Trump was cited for an 2011 interview in which he agreed there was “a Muslim problem,” and added, “I didn’t see Swedish people knocking down the World Trade Center.”

CAIR’s Awad recalled Sunday that, during the last presidential campaign, Republican hopeful Herman Cain had said he would not appoint a Muslim to his cabinet or as a federal judge if elected president.

On that occasion CAIR’s criticism of Cain’s March 2011 comments did not evidently hurt his campaign. The former corporate executive surged over the summer and was leading the race that October before he lost momentum amid allegations of past sexual harassment of female employees. Cain suspended his campaign in December.

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