Muslim Political Candidates and Public Officials: Choosing Between Islamic Doctrine or the U.S. Constitution

People in public office in the United States at the local, state, and federal levels are required to take an oath of office in which they swear, or affirm, to support the U.S. Constitution. This is based on Article 6, Clause 3 of that Constitution (the “Oaths Clause”).

The Framers of the Constitution considered the “Oaths Clause” a way of binding those taking that oath “to abstain from all acts inconsistent with it,” and “to observe the limits” it placed on their authority.1

Thomas Jefferson explained it well:

“In questions of power then, let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the constitution.” – Thomas Jefferson, The Kentucky Resolutions of 1798, Jefferson’s Fair Copy2

But as I wrote about in my book Islamic Doctrine Versus the U.S. Constitution: The Dilemma for Muslim Public Officials,3 there are irreconcilable conflicts between the U.S. Constitution and core tenets of Islamic Doctrine. It is only natural then to ask a Muslim running for office, or one currently in office, how they personally resolve those irreconcilable conflicts in order to swear to support the U.S. Constitution.

So, I decided to ask, and I created the Muslim Oath Project. In 2019 and 2020 I sent four specific questions to a total of 263 Muslim public officials and political candidates. Those four questions required a choice to be made between Islamic Doctrine or the U.S. Constitution. Those four questions are found in this brochure:

Islamic Doctrine versus the U.S. Constitution: Four Questions for Muslim Public Officials and Political Candidates

Of the 263 contacted, only 17 expressed support for the U.S. Constitution; of those 17, six preferred to remain anonymous. More information about the Muslim Oath Project, and a list, by state, of the 246 who would not express support for the U.S Constitution is here. For details about the rational and procedures for the Muslim Oath Project, see my article “Islam Versus The U.S. Constitution – The Muslim Oath Project.”4

In spite of the reluctance to express support for the U.S. Constitution by 94% of the then-Muslim candidates and public officials contacted, we are seeing an energized effort to increase the number of Muslims running for public office or seeking re-election to public office in 2022.

Congressman Andre Carson, a Muslim convert, summed it up well in 2019:

It’s more than just about having three Muslims in Congress. I think symbolically it has great value, but I won’t rest until 2020 we have five more members of Congress; 2022 and 24, we have ten more Muslims in Congress. In 2030 we may have about 30, 35 Muslims in Congress. Then we’re talking about Madame Chair Rashida. We’re talking about Madame Chair Ilhan. Hell, we could be saying Speaker of the House Ilhan, Speaker of the House Rashida, Senator Rashida, Governor Ilhan, President Fatima, Vice President Aziza, Inshah’ Allah…Each and every one of us has a directive to represent Islam, in all of our imperfections, but to represent Islam and let the world know that Muslims are here to stay, and Muslims are a part of America. And we will, we will have a Muslim caucus that is sizable, that is formidable, and that is there for you. – U.S. Congressman Andre Carson (a Muslim convert) – Indiana 7th District CAIR Community Congressional Reception, January 10, 2019

What to do?

So what is one to do? The answer is to ask Muslim candidates and public officials one or more
of the Four Questions found in the brochure on the previous page and then to publicize their
answers, or lack thereof. How should one prepare oneself? Here are some things to consider:

  1. Go to a political event with a few friends so multiple questions can be asked, but don’t sit
    together. Each of you can have your own question to ask the Muslim public official/candidate. Once you ask your question, the public official/candidate will not come back to you, so this then provides an opportunity for one of your other friends.
  2. Use one of the Four Questions that is listed in the brochure mentioned on the previous
    page. Review the chapter in Islamic Doctrine Versus the U.S. Constitution from which the particular question came and have the Koran chapter and verse, and/or the source for
    Muhammad’s teaching available in case you are asked for that information. Remember,
    4 Stephen M. Kirby, “Islam Versus The U.S. Constitution – The Muslim Oath Project,” PipeLineNews.org, May 1, 2020, a free PDF download of this book is available here.
  3. Be polite and calm.
  4. Read your question verbatim and push for a definitive answer.
  5. Be ready to handle evasive responses – use the information in this brochure: Islamic Doctrine versus the U.S. Constitution: Handling Evasive Responses
  6. Even if the Muslim candidate is evasive or refuses to respond, you are still educating
    those around you about Islam.
  7. Have the event recorded and post it to social media.
  8. Expect to be called an “Islamophobe,” so have this quote from CAIR (Council on American-Islamic Relations) available: It is not appropriate to label all, or even the majority of those, who question Islam and Muslims as Islamophobes. CAIR Report 2013, Legislating Fear: Islamophobia and its Impact in the United States, p. ix

Conclusion

There is an importance attached to taking an oath of office to support the U.S. Constitution. As I noted above, the Framers of the U.S. Constitution considered the “Oaths Clause” a way of
binding those taking that oath “to abstain from all acts inconsistent with it,” and “to observe the limits” it placed on their authority.

If we are to expect our public officials “to abstain from all acts inconsistent” with the U.S.
Constitution and to observe the limits it places on them, then it is only natural to raise specific questions when a public official or candidate for public office claims to follow a religion that is rife with teachings and commands in conflict with that Constitution. And it is incumbent on Muslim public officials and candidates to be willing to specifically answer how each resolves that conflict.

…the Constitution which at any time exists, ‘till changed by an explicit and authentic act of the whole People, is sacredly obligatory upon all. George Washington’s Farewell Address – September 19, 1796.

References:

1 Edwin Meese III, Matthew Spalding, and David Forte, The Heritage Guide to the Constitution (Washington DC: Regnery Publishing, 2005), p. 295.

2 “The Papers of Thomas Jefferson,” Princeton University.
3 Stephen M. Kirby, Islamic Doctrine Versus the U.S. Constitution: The Dilemma for Muslim Public Officials (Washington DC: Center for Security Policy Press, 2019)

©Dr. Stephen M. Kirby, Ph.D. All rights reserved.

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