The boy with the alarm clock/bomb controversy was not quite over, when the United States of America was thrown into yet another storm of religious bigotry. A debate over Islam - first sparked by Donald Trump not correcting a town hall questioner who called President Obama a non-American Muslim, and now brought to climax by Ben Carson saying a Muslim should not be president - has unexpectedly shifted the conversation in the Republican presidential race.

Carson, a devout Christian, came under heavy criticism for his initial remarks, that a president’s faith should matter to voters if it runs counter to the values and principles of America. In response to a follow-up question about whether he would support a Muslim candidate for president, Carson said, “I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation,” Carson said. “I absolutely would not agree with that.” He has refused to retract his statement as well, insisting that the country cannot elect people whose faith might interfere with carrying out the duties of the constitution, and that Shariah Law was not aligned with the Constitution of the USA. Carson’s campaign reported strong fundraising and more than 100,000 new Facebook friends in the 24 hours after his comments were aired, giving us an insight into just how real Islamophobia is the country.

The Democrats, social media, along with the nation’s largest Muslim advocacy group had a field day after Carson’s comments aired. Article six of the constitution was quoted one too many times which states, “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States”. The Democrats took the opportunity to slam the candidate, labeling him unfit to become Commander-in-Chief and his remarks “inappropriate, foolish and quintessentially un-American”.

America’s Muslim population is small, but it is growing, especially in swing states, like Florida, Virginia, Ohio and Texas. While the law is clear, the politics of Muslim culture in America are not. Fourteen years after Islamic extremists executed the deadliest terrorist attack in US history, a suspicious stance resonates with some voters. While George W. Bush was able to call Islam a religion of peace after 9/11, it’s impossible to imagine today’s Republican Party making any kind of positive gesture toward Muslims. This must change if any Republican candidate hopes to be in power, as Democratic senator Harry Reid put it on Monday, Muslims “teach in our schools, fight in our military and serve in Congress”.