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Misconceptions and blatant ignorance about Muslim Americans abound, and Republican presidential hopeful Ben Carson doubled down on his own rhetoric Tuesday. He went so far as to call Muslim Americans "schizophrenic."
Breitbart News Daily host Stephen Bannon asked Carson on Tuesday if American Muslims' religious values were at odds with their nation's political values, Politico reported.
"Only if they're schizophrenic," Carson said. "I don't see how they can do it otherwise, because you have two different philosophies," he added, later referring to Islam as a religion Muslim Americans "bought into" and arguing that the Prophet Muhammad was "in no way comparable to Jesus Christ."
"As a Muslim it is offensive to be accused of schizophrenia," Saba Ahmed, president and founder of the Republican Muslim Coalition told ThinkProgress of Carson's remarks. "There are tens of thousands of Muslims in this country who love American values and their religion at the same time. I am one of them."
The damage of generally using a term for a medical illness, like "schizophrenia," in a derogatory way is well documented. As Arun Chopra, a British consultant psychiatrist and researcher, told the BBC in 2011, using medical terms this way is "tremendously damaging" and "part of the process of creating a stigma around mental illness. You would never hear it used in relation to a physical condition. You wouldn't hear someone being described as a bit diabetic."
It's not the first time Carson has made an ignorant comment about Muslim Americans. In October, he stated his opposition to the possibility of a Muslim American presidential candidate due to their "different loyalties," according to MSNBC — a comment that built on his assertion a month prior that Islam is inconsistent with the Constitution, as the Guardian reported in September.
His stance is unfortunately not an anomaly in the United States at large. In 2015, a number of mosques were attacked in the United States and Islamophobic attitudes were evident on college campuses, city streets and beyond. A 2015 YouGov poll found that this stance is one held by the majority of Americans: 55% of those surveyed had a somewhat or very "unfavorable" opinion of Islam.
As a potential leader of the United States, Carson would seemingly do well to pledge his support for all Americans rather than bolster factually unfounded attitudes toward an already marginalized group.