PASEO SPRINGS, CALIFORNIA — Anika Kaber is a first generation, native-born Muslim American woman. Kaber says that she considers herself “a woman first, an American second, and a Muslim third” and that she is “very lucky” her parents emigrated to the United States more than thirty years ago. “For sure I wouldn’t have the kind of life I have here back where they’re from in Afghanistan,” Kaber told The Political Garbage Chute, “because religious extremists would have been running the country while I was growing up, and there’s no way I’d have gotten a great education and would have been able to open my own floral shop.” Kaber says she “owes much of [her] lifestyle to American ideals of freedom and equality.”
So when Kaber heard that 2016 Republican presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson told Chuck Todd on NBC’s Sunday morning talk show “Meet the Press” that the neurosurgeon and evangelical Christian wouldn’t support someone of her faith as president, she was “confused” and then “really, really angry” at Dr. Carson.
“Has this man never heard of the First Amendment,” Kaber asked rhetorically, insisting that “a brain surgeon should have better reading comprehension than that.” Kaber told our reporter she also doesn’t believe Carson as “ever read the Constitution” because “Article 6 clearly states that there shall never be any religious test for who can be elected to public office.” Ms. Kaber said she has to “question the intelligence of a man who doesn’t realize he just admitted he has no idea how the laws of this country are supposed to work.”
Kaber said that she herself has no problems with people of any faith — or no faith at all — becoming president because “that’s what America’s about.” Kaber said she “gets that we don’t elect high priests and imams in this country” but that “clearly Mr. Carson doesn’t understand such things.”
“The great irony that I see,” Kaber told us, “is that this guy is far more extreme in his views than most of the candidates.” Kaber said she remembers when Carson insisted that American soldiers can and should ignore the Geneva conventions, and she said he seems “abnormally preoccupied with gay people’s sexual activities” despite the fact that he “is so ignorant about homosexuality that he actually believes it’s a conscious choice still.”
Ms. Kaber told our reporter she doesn’t think Carson is “any less extreme than ISIS leaders who behead people” because Carson supports torture, rendition, and ignoring traditional lines of civility and humane behavior on the battlefield. She further said that after hearing Dr. Carson speak about matters like religion in politics, that she doesn’t see how he is “fit to not be called dumb” because, as she says, “all he says is dumb, dumb stuff.”
“How can this guy, who is clearly someone who lets his religious beliefs color every single, solitary viewpoint he has and decision he makes, dare to call someone else too extreme, or say that our views aren’t ‘in line’ with traditional American values,” Kaber asked pointedly while adding, “because I’m pretty sure that treating gay people like garbage people, Islamic people like they’re all guilty of terrorism, and pretty much everyone who doesn’t think the way he does as less than human is only a traditional American value in certain — shall we say, red — areas of the country.”
Kaber reminded our interviewer that in the 1960 election John F. Kennedy’s Catholic religion was used as a weapon against him by the Richard Nixon campaign. “They told the American people that Kennedy would take advice from the Pope over Congress. They implied that he’d be a puppet of the Vatican. Does that rhetoric sound familiar to anyone else but me,” Kaber asked.
“To me, what Dr. Carson said is equally stupid and hateful, and I can’t decide which is worse,” Kaber said as the interview was wrapping up. “On the one hand,” she said, “simply being stupid is a hallmark of the Republican candidates of the last few cycles. Bachmann, Cain, Perry, Jindal. They’re all dumb as a box of rocks and proudly so. But the Islamaphobia thing is even more frightening not just because of my faith, but because of everyone’s faiths. In this country, we are supposed to tolerate and respect each other’s beliefs in public, no matter what we think about them in private. But people like Carson want us to believe that treating an entire swath of people as sub-human simply because of their religious affiliations is somehow more American than someone who simply practices a different religion he does.”
“If the Westboro Baptist Church doesn’t preclude Christians from being president, then the 9/11 hijackers and ISIS shouldn’t preclude a Muslim from being president either,” Ms. Kaber said emphatically.