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Ben Carson, Donald Trump and the GOP problem with Muslims
In recent weeks, GOP presidential candidates have spoken candidly about Muslim-Americans, showing the party may have a problem with the religious group. - photo by Herb Scribner
Within the last week, two 2016 Republican presidential nominees have caused controversy over comments they made about Muslims, which may indicate the political party has a Muslim problem, according to news reports.

First, GOP hopeful Donald Trump said on Sundays Meet the Press with Chuck Todd that he doesnt believe President Barack Obama is anything but Muslim, according to The Huffington Post. In fact, Trump went as far as to say that the United States has had its first Muslim president in Obama.

This came days after Trump let an audience member question Obamas religion and nationality, saying the president was Muslim, according to ABC News.

Trump also said he wouldnt feel comfortable voting for a Muslim president, mostly because of the problems some Muslim-Americans create, The Huffington Post reported.

"I feel strongly that Muslims are excellent. I know so many Muslims that are such fabulous people," Trump told Todd. "But there is a problem. I mean, there's no question about it. And we can be politically correct, and we can say there is no problem whatsoever, but the fact is there is a problem with some. And it's a very severe problem."

Similarly, GOP candidate Ben Carson said Sunday on Meet the Press that Islam isnt compatible with the U.S. Constitution and he wouldnt vote for a Muslim to become president, according to Politico.

"I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that," he said on the broadcast, CNNs Peter Bergen reported.

These comments didnt sit well with Muslims and Islamic religious leaders. The Council on American-Islamic Relations, the biggest Muslim civil rights group in the United States, specifically called for Carson to quit the presidential race, according to Newser.

"It's beyond the pale and he should withdraw," council spokesman Ibrahim Hooper told Al Jazeera America.

Carsons comments, especially about how the Constitution doesnt work with Muslim beliefs, have also drawn fire from the media because Muslims have been included in American history since colonial times. In fact, the Virginia Act for Establish Religious Freedom was "meant to comprehend, within the mantle of its protection, the Jew, the Gentile, the Christian and the Mahometan (Muslim), the Hindoo and Infidel of every denomination, according to Thomas Jefferson, the laws author.

But the controversy surrounding comments made against Muslims isnt too surprising, especially for the Republican party. A Gallup poll from earlier this summer found that 60 percent of Americans would vote for a Muslim president, while 38 percent would not. A Muslim president was only more electable than an atheist and socialist, according to Gallup.

And, according to the Arab American Institute, 60 percent of Republicans have negative views of Muslim-Americans.

These negative views about Muslims have been fueled by a virulent minority on the right that has been pushing the claim for the past several years that President Obama is seeking to populate his administration with members of the Muslim Brotherhood as part of a secret plan to bring Sharia law to the United States, according to CNN.

The concern and negative views on Muslim-Americans may also be a result of right-wingers looking to instill fear in Americans, much in the same way politicians created fear over communism and its followers, Bergen reported.

Bergen also said Americans should realize not all Muslims are extremists like those found in terror groups such as the Islamic State.

This isnt an uncommon misconception. As I wrote back in June, Islamic State terrorists use Islamic scripture to lure members, but rarely follow its practices, instead opting for extremism that appears very little in the scriptures pages.

Thats why extremist groups, Bergen said, paint the wrong image of what a modern Muslim-American looks like.

To bridge the divide between who Muslim-Americans really are and who many in the country believe them to be, Bergen suggests Americans and Republicans take the words of a former GOP leader to heart.

Indeed, to his great credit, six days after 9/11 President George W. Bush visited the Islamic Center of Washington and said, The face of terror is not the true faith of Islam. That's not what Islam is all about. Islam is peace. These terrorists don't represent peace. They represent evil and war. Amen to that.
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