We are only a bit over a month into the Trump administration, and already we know that the POTUS has an uncanny ability to turn what should be a passing comment or thought into a full-blown scandal – or at least, a soundbite to dominate the news cycle.
Such was the case on Wednesday when newly prominent Trump adviser Sabastian Gorka refused to answer a question about whether or not President Trump considers Islam to be a religion.
Gorka was fielding questions about terrorism and the Muslim ban when he was asked whether or not the president believed Islam is a religion.
Rather than treating the question as one with an obvious answer, Gorka dodged and said that the White House would not be engaging in “theological debates.”
“This is not a theological seminary. This is the White House, and we’re not going to get into theological debates,” he said. “If the president has a certain attitude to a certain religion that’s something you can ask him, but we’re talking about national security and the totalitarian ideologies that drive the groups that threaten America.”
Gorka had been asked the same question earlier in the day on NPR, and then, too, he refused to answer, telling the reporter to ask Trump himself.
“I think you should ask him that question. I’m not a spokesperson for the president,” Gorka said. “I’m a deputy assistant to him. But I would say that’s really a misreading of everything he’s said over the last 18 months.”
Here’s what Gorka should have said: “the president respects all religions and religious believers.” There, scandal over. But instead, he painstakingly refused to suggest that the president was in any way supportive or respectful of Islam.
While the question may seem out of place, it is not uncommon for some in the far-right to suggest that rather than being a religion like Christianity, Islam is an “ideology,” and therefore not subject to freedom of religion laws in America.
If the POTUS were to succeed in making many believe that Islam is not a religion, it would give him grounds to begin persecuting that religion, even pulling off the “Muslim ban” that he has so often denied.
To be clear, this question has a clear and indisputable answer: Yes, Islam is a religion just like Christianity, Catholicism, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, and many other smaller religions.
To suggest otherwise is to deny the 1.6 billion citizens of the world who ascribe to that belief.