Muslims Demand That Ben Carson Quit the Race Critics stunned by his comment against Muslim presidents By Neal Colgrass, Newser Staff Posted Sep 20, 2015 6:00 PM CDT 559 comments Comments Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson speaks at a presidential forum sponsored by Heritage Action at the Bon Secours Wellness Arena, Friday, Sept. 18, 2015, in Greenville, SC. (AP Photo/Richard Shiro) (Newser) – Ben Carson's camp is playing defense today after his remark that a Muslim shouldn't be US president sparked some criticism, NBC News reports. "He did not say that a Muslim should be prevented from running, or barred from running in any way," says campaign spokesman Doug Watts. "[Carson] just doesn't believe the American people are ready for that." Watts added that Carson, a Christian and Seventh Day Adventist, will likely start a dialogue with Muslim leaders. What Carson actually said on Meet the Press this morning: "I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that." Now, the Council on American-Islamic Relations—the country's biggest Muslim civil-rights group—is among those striking back: "It's beyond the pale and he should withdraw" from the presidential race, says Council spokesman Ibrahim Hooper, per Al Jazeera. Nihad Awad, the group's national executive director, adds that Carson "clearly does not understand or care about the Constitution, which states that 'no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office.'" At the Atlantic, Matt Ford notes that the idea of religious freedom echoes across the centuries from Thomas Jefferson's drafting of the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom in 1786. But "Carson’s opposition to a Muslim president seems to be prophylactic: There are no Muslim presidential candidates," Ford writes. There are, however, two Muslim members of Congress—André Carson of Indiana and Keith Ellison of Minnesota, both Democrats, the Guardian reports. "For Ben Carson, Donald Trump, or any other Republican politician to suggest that someone of any faith is unfit for office is out of touch with who we are as a people," says Ellison. Yet Carson's not alone: A June Gallup poll found that 38% of US voters wouldn't support a Muslim candidate.