Letter to the editor: Ben Carson, Sharia law and the Constitution

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So candidate Dr. Carson opines that Islamic Sharia law is incompatible with our Constitution. And that a Muslim president would be problematic.

His opinion, but he might have expanded more on why.

True, concerning Sharia, he raises issues.

At least as I’ve read and been told, Islam’s tenets arose “from above” via its deity. Islam distrusts “man-made laws” as being mistaken, inferior. Sharia is clear and fixed, which its adherents do value. In extent, Sharia is all-encompassing, is “a complete guide to living” (again, valued). It seamlessly blends theology and government (our “Church and State”). And it gives rules-plus-options for all else law and punishment, economics, social life, male-female behavior, personal life (music, diet, alcohol) and more.

Worldwide, polls consistently show that most Muslims prefer Sharia or some degree or aspect of it, again as valued guidance. (This includes in America.) Some of its laws may seem harsh to us,that is. (Note that one clearer issue is that “Sharia courts” parallel to our justice system cannot but differ majorly from our notions of justice. Still, such courts have been sought in the U.S.A.) Note also that some traditional Islamic doctrines seem to specify that it’s a major religious duty for Muslims to advance Sharia over the entire world (by whatever various means) until “all religion is for Allah” and this intended for all mankind’s salvation. And so, Islam seems to be a “religion plus.”

In contrast, democratic America finds its tenets via human reason “here below.” It might distrust existing systems. It seeks life and liberty, via government by citizens participating responsibly (we hope!).

With multiple freedoms: of conscience, of thought and speech, of the press. Of any religion, or none. Multiple equalities: of all people and genders before the law, of opportunities, and of still other values we sometimes overlook.

That’s my (admittedly-amateur) sketch of two major systems. Two philosophies, both aiming for validity, but each unarguably distinct from, and often even contradicting, each other. But each one, apparently validfor its own adherents, that is.

But then, noting the above, what about a Muslim president? Could a devout Muslim committed to his faith, simultaneously and without conflict, also swear allegiance to defend our Constitution, and the like? Perhaps a complex point to ponder if and when relevant.

Anyhow thanks to Carson for raising “electric” issues important to take note of.

Brian Kevin Beck

Emeritus Associate Professor, UW-W