A man said to Donald Trump at a campaign rally on Friday “We have a problem in this country. It’s called Muslims.”
Presidential candidate Ben Carson said on Sunday that no Muslim should ever become a U.S. president.
Meet Mohammed Shaker. He is a member of the Pinellas County (Florida) Young Republicans, participates in his local GOP and is a staunch supporter of Senator Rand Paul for president.
Mohammed also served his country honorably in Iraq as a U.S. Army Combat Medic with the 82nd Airborne.
He’s also Muslim.
I asked Mohammed what he thought of Carson’s comments. “Carson’s statement I think is selfish and not fair to other minorities who want to run for offices in the future” Shaker said. “What’s wrong with Muslims in the country wanting to become president?” he asked.
Mohammed didn’t dismiss obvious and troubling problems within Islam.
“Rand Paul today said he’d be okay with a Muslim president because the most important thing about being president is what you stand for,” he said. “He did mention that moderate/civilized Islam should stand up a bit louder against radical Islam,” he continued, “and that’s a position I can stand behind because it’s exactly how I feel.”
Mohammed and Senator Rand Paul at the 2015 Conservative Political Action Conference
Carson’s comment that Muslims should be disqualified from becoming president because of their religion ironically comes from a black man who years ago would’ve been disqualified from that same office in the minds of voters because of his skin color.
Shaker dismissed Carson’s collectivist mentality. “Conservatism is about individual merits, work, and responsibility,” he said.
Mohammed Shaker was born in St. Petersburg Florida, moved to Egypt a year later and lived in the Middle East for nine years. He moved back to Florida with his family at age ten and lived there until he joined the Army in 2008.
His military service, he says, taught him important lessons about his country.
“I love America because of how diverse it is. I saw that first hand in the Army,” he explained. “Sitting on a C-130 where an Arab-American Muslim is about to dangerously jump from an airplane with his Spaniard-Jewish friend, black, Hispanic, and white Christian friends.”
I know Mohammed because he is active in the same conservative and libertarian circles I belong to. At 26, he’s still nine years shy of being eligible to run for president and has no intention of running for public office at the moment.
But when I speak to these youth groups, Mohammed is exactly the type of young person I hope does run for office one day and not just because of the political beliefs we share.
The American right is at its best when we emphasize how less government and more liberty can make life better for everyone. The right is at its worst when it pits groups against each other—immigrants, gay people, Arabs—stoking fear that the country is being “taken over” by interlopers who are somehow less American than the rest of us.
Mohammed and friends at the 2015 Young Americans for Liberty National Convention
The young libertarians like Mohammed and others I interact with are largely free of the prejudices many of their elders still have and that continue to animate campaigns like Donald Trump’s.
No one should have been surprised by Trump’s anti-Muslim fan last week. The billionaire flirting with these kinds prejudices is not new. When he was fueling birther conspiracy theories in 2011, Trump told Fox News of Obama,”He doesn’t have a birth certificate. He may have one, but there’s something on that, maybe religion, maybe it says he is a Muslim.”
You see, these “others” are coming to get us real Americans—including our “Muslim” president.
It’s hard to tell what’s more offensive sometimes—the racism or the stupidity of these spectacles.
In his 2013 speech on the racially-charged killing of unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin that sparked a national controversy, President Obama said, referring to his daughters, “When I talk to Malia and Sasha, and I listen to their friends and I seem them interact, they’re better than we are—they’re better than we were—on these issues.”
Obama was right. Younger Americans are simply better as a whole when it comes to racism and issues of intolerance than their parents and grandparents are or were—and thank God for that.
There are roughly six million American Muslims like Mohammed and his family. “I believe that in general people don’t understand American Muslims simply because they haven’t met us.” “All of us are just as diverse as America itself,” he said.
As a Republican, Mohammed is the black sheep of his family.
“My parents are traditional conservatives that believe in family values, pro-life, pro-traditional marriage, and being fiscally conservative, but they are registered Democrats and vote ‘D’ down the line, every election” Shaker said.
Mohammed explained why: “They see some nasty things being said from prominent ‘conservative’ and Republican politicians that puts them off.”
On Friday, a man asked Trump of Muslims, “When can we get rid of them?”
We need to get rid of these attitudes.
Mohammed Shaker 2028.
Disclosure: I co-authored Senator Rand Paul’s 2011 book The Tea Party Goes to Washington.