Ben Carson’s comparison of Islamic jihadists, like the ones who killed 130 people in France last week, to “rabid dogs” is now being framed as a gaffe by reporters at the Washington Post.
“‘Rabid dogs and closing mosques: Anti-Islam rhetoric grows in GOP” is the headline on a story published by the Post last night. Anyone reading the headline would think someone in the GOP had attacked Islam as a bunch of “rabid” dogs.
The description in the story itself only furthers that idea: “Another top candidate likened Syrian refugees — who are largely Muslim — to dogs. Some of them might be rabid, he said, which was reason to keep them all out.” That’s not what Carson said, nor is it how he said it.
And the Post’s headline, suggesting Carson’s comments were “Anti-Islamic,” is almost the opposite of reality. At a campaign stop in Alabama Thursday, Ben Carson used an analogy to discuss his approach to Syrian refugees. Here is what he actually said:
We want leaders who are not only smart but who care about other people. Now, at the same time, we must balance safety against just being a humanitarian. For instance, if there’s a rabid dog running around your neighborhood, you’re probably not going to assume something good about that dog and you’re probably going to put your children out of the way.
Doesn’t mean that you hate all dogs by any stretch of the imagination, but you’re putting your intellect into motion and you’re thinking: ‘How do I protect my children? At the same time, I love dogs and I’m going to call the Humane Society and hopefully they can come and take this dog away and create a safe environment once again.’
By the same token, we have to have in place screening mechanisms that allow us to determine who the mad dogs are, quite frankly, who are the people who want to come in here and hurt us and want to destroy us. Until we know how to do that — just like it would be foolish to put your child out in the neighborhood knowing that that was going on — it is foolish for us to accept people if we cannot have the appropriate type of screening.
Carson is using an analogy. That should be fairly obvious. He is not ranting or using intemperate language to call groups of people names. He is making a point about the threat of global terrorism using a more familiar, local setting.
And what he is saying with that analogy is both measured and fairly boilerplate. He’s definitely not saying all Muslims are like dogs in the derogatory sense suggested by the Post. On the contrary, in this analogy most Muslims are portrayed as a beloved part of the safe, American neighborhood. The problem is only the “rabid dog.”
Carson is explicit about who the “rabid” dogs are in his analogy. They are, “people who want to come in here and hurt us and want to destroy us.” He’s talking about the kind of people who killed 130 in Paris last week. Authorities now say two of the suicide bombers who blew themselves up outside a stadium last week made their way to France as refugees. These are the rabid dogs Carson is worried about introducing into the American neighborhood.
This concern about terrorists using our own humanitarian impulses to attack us is neither ill-considered nor out of step with the American people. In fact, as the Post noted in a separate article just this morning, recent polling suggests a majority of Americans are worried about exactly this problem. As Carson said, that does not mean we “hate” all Muslims, but it does mean we need to take extra precaution until we’re sure we can screen out the few “rabid dogs.”