Muslims respect constitutional principles

The immediate reactions to Dr. Ben Carson’s fallacious view that Muslims can’t respect America’s Constitution have dissipated — but the invidious suspicion that he might be right lives on in the thinking of too many Americans.

The supposed incompatibility of Islam with American constitutional democracy deserves immediate disposal in the trash heap of history, where ignorance, prejudice and stupid thinking belong.

 Since Carson and his many sympathizers continue to insist on the fundamental opposition of Islam to the prevailing moral system of America, we insist with equal conviction that the Islamic faith is indeed compatible with constitutional democracy — in America and everywhere else.

Islam is an Abrahamic faith. Our Constitution also comes from the Abrahamic tradition of fulfilling responsibilities. Thus, Muslims have the same affinity with the constitutional principle of public office as a public trust as Christians and Jews do.

Our Constitution requires those who hold public office to take an oath that they will be faithful stewards of that office. This tradition of stewardship goes back to I Samuel 8 in the Old Testament. It was used in the Magna Carta 800 years ago to restrain King John. John Calvin reaffirmed the ministry of public office under God and the law. His views inspired, first, the English revolution against royal tyranny, then John Locke’s ideas on government and later the American Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution.

The Qur’an (2:30) describes humanity as stewards (khalifa) of God in protecting and nourishing his creation. The Qur’anic idea of authority as Khalifa holds that all of us are responsible for our trusteeship duties to advance the public good and help one another.

The Qur’an (23:8) describes those who walk in the ways of God as “those who are attentive to their trusts and covenants.” It further (4:58) states, “Indeed, God commands you to render trusts to whom they are due and when you judge between people to judge with justice.”

Where Muslim societies have lived under oppressive rulers, the oppression revealed a failure of such leaders to rule justly according to Qur’anic teachings.

These fundamental Qur’anic teachings can be found expressly in John Locke’s Second Treatise on Government, which is the founding theory supporting our Constitution.

Thus, Muslims are theologically directed to be good stewards of their trust responsibilities and so are easily able to uphold our Constitution with conviction.


This article was originally published in the Star Tribune

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