Republican candidate Carson 'absolutely' stands by comments on Muslims

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Ben Carson Stands by Comments on Islam and the Presidency

U.S. Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson, under fire for saying a Muslim should not be president, said on Monday he "absolutely" stood by his comments but would be open to a moderate Muslim candidate who denounced radical Islamists.

Carson, who is one of the top-polling Republican candidates, told NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday that he "would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that."

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Saying he thought a president's faith should be "consistent with the Constitution," Carson, a Christian, said he did not believe Muslims met that bar.

Council on American-Islamic Relations Executive Director Nihad Awad has called on Carson to quit the presidential race "because he is unfit to lead, because his views are inconsistent with the United States Constitution."

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Republican candidate Carson 'absolutely' stands by comments on Muslims
Republican presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson gestures while speaking during a town hall at Abundant Life Ministries in Jefferson, Iowa, Monday, Jan. 11, 2016. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
MT. AYR, IA - JANUARY 22 : Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson is introduced during his 'Trust in God Townhall' campaign stop January 22, 2016 in Mt. Ayr, Iowa. Carson, who is seeking the nomination from the Republican Party is on the presidential campaign trail across Iowa ahead of the Iowa Caucus taking place February 1. (Photo by Joshua Lott/Getty Images)
Republican presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson walks through the National Motorcycle Museum in Anamosa, Iowa, Thursday, Jan. 7, 2016, after holding a town hall. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Republican presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson smiles during an interview with The Associated Press in his home in Upperco, Md., Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2015. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Republican presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson speaks during a campaign event at Cobb Energy Center Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2015, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Republican presidential candidate, Dr. Ben Carson speaks during a town hall meeting at Winthrop University on Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2015, in Rock Hill, S.C. (AP Photo/Rainier Ehrhardt)
Republican presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson speaks at a rally Sunday, Nov. 15, 2015, in Henderson, Nev. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Ben Carson, 2016 Republican presidential candidate, speaks during a Liberty University Convocation in Lynchburg, Virginia, U.S., on Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2015. As retired neurosurgeon Carson has risen in the polls, media reports have revisited his accounts of acts of violence as a child, a key part of the redemption story he discusses on the campaign trail. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
PALM BEACH GARDENS, FL - NOVEMBER 06: Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson speaks to the media before speaking at a gala for the Black Republican Caucus of South Florida at PGA National Resort on November 6, 2015 in Palm Beach, Florida. Carson has come under media scrutiny for possibly exaggerating his background and other statements he has made recently. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson greets well-wishers during a campaign stop, Thursday, Oct. 29, 2015, in Lakewood, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
DES MOINES, IA - AUGUST 16: Republican presidential hopeful Ben Carson (L) eats a piece of pizza while touring the Iowa State Fair on August 16, 2015 in Des Moines, Iowa. Presidential candidates are addressing attendees at the Iowa State Fair on the Des Moines Register Presidential Soapbox stage and touring the fairgrounds. The State Fair runs through August 23. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson speaks during a campaign stop, Thursday, Oct. 29, 2015, in Lakewood, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
FILE - In this Oct. 24, 2015, file photo, Republican presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson greets audience members after speaking at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa. Seven in 10 Republican and Republican-leaning registered voters say Donald Trump could win the November 2016 election. That compares to 6 in 10 who say the same for retired neurosurgeon Carson, who, like Trump, has tapped into the powerful wave of anti-establishment anger defining the early phases of the 2016 contest. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File)
LAKEWOOD, CO - OCTOBER 29: Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson speaks during a news conference before a campaign event at Colorado Christian University on October 29, 2015 in Lakewood, Colorado. Ben Carson was back on the campaign trail a day after the third republican debate held at the University of Colorado Boulder. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Republican presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson speaks outside the Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity at Iowa State University during a campaign stop, Saturday, Oct. 24, 2015, in Ames, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Republican presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson, left, laughs as he wife, Candy Carson, waves to the crowd after saying a few words to the crowd supporting her husband in front of supporters Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2015, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
Republican presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson greets audience members following a town hall meeting, Friday, Oct. 2, 2015, in Ankeny, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Republican presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson speaks at a luncheon at the National Press Club in Washington, Friday, Oct. 9, 2015. Carson is promoting a book he has co-authored with his wife Candy Carson entitled 'A More Perfect Union: What We the People Can Do to Reclaim Our Constitutional Liberties.' (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 25: Scenes around the the Value Voters Summit on September 25, 2015 in Washington DC. Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson takes the stage at the event. Dr Carson speaks to the media after the speach. (Photos by Charles Ommanney/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Attendees wait for Ben Carson, 2016 Republican presidential candidate, not pictured, to arrive during a campaign stop at the birthplace of the Michigan Republican Party in Jackson, Michigan, U.S., on Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2015. Carson, the third candidate in the Republican race to have never held elected office, saw his numbers drop following the debate last week. Photographer: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg via Getty Images
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, S.C. (AP Photo/Richard Shiro)
Republican Presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson during a speech to the Commonwealth Club public affairs forum Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2015, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson speaks at a rally in Little Rock, Ark., Thursday, Aug. 27, 2015. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston)
Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson is interviewed in Little Rock, Ark., Thursday, Aug. 27, 2015. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston)
Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson stands for a photo with a fairgoer at the Iowa State Fair Sunday, Aug. 16, 2015, in Des Moines. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Ben Carson, 2016 Republican presidential candidate, listens as he attends a service at Maple Street Missionary Baptist Church in Des Moines, Iowa, U.S., on Sunday, Aug. 16, 2015. Carson will be speaking at the Iowa State Fair, which is expected to host 18 presidential candidates and runs until Aug. 23. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Republican presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson speaks to hundreds of supporters at the Inaugural Basque Fry at Corley Ranch in Gardnerville, Nev. on Saturday, Aug. 15, 2015. (AP Photo/Lance Iversen)
CLEVELAND, OH - AUGUST 06: Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson participates in the first prime-time presidential debate hosted by FOX News and Facebook at the Quicken Loans Arena August 6, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio. The top-ten GOP candidates were selected to participate in the debate based on their rank in an average of the five most recent national political polls. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Republican presidential candidate, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, speaks at the Family Leadership Summit in Ames, Iowa, Saturday, July 18, 2015. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
Republican presidential candidate, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, right, speaks with pollster Frank Luntz at the Family Leadership Summit in Ames, Iowa, Saturday, July 18, 2015. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
Ben Carson, 2016 Republican presidential candidate, eats a slice of pizza as he tours the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines, Iowa, U.S., on Sunday, Aug. 16, 2015. In a Sunday interview with Fox News, Carson doubled down on his assertion that a speech given by President Barack Obama intended to sell the American public on his nuclear deal with Iran contained 'coded innuendos employing standard anti-Semitic themes.' Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson speaks at the National Sheriffs’ Association presidential forum, Tuesday, June 30, 2015, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Republican presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson is greeted by supporters during a fundraiser for U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, Saturday, June 6, 2015, in Boone, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Republican presidential hopeful Sen. Rand Paul, left, talks with Republican presidential hopeful Dr. Ben Carson during the Iowa Republican Party's Lincoln Dinner, Saturday, May 16, 2015, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Republican presidential candidate and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson speaks at Manchester Community College, Sunday, May 10, 2015, in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Mary Schwalm)
Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson speaks in town hall meeting in Baltimore Md., Thursday May 7, 2015. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
Ben Carson announces his candidacy for president during an official announcement in Detroit, Monday, May 4, 2015. Carson, 63, a retired neurosurgeon, begins the Republican primary as an underdog in a campaign expected to feature several seasoned politicians. (Photo/Paul Sancya)
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Carson's comments have also been criticized by some of his Republican rivals for president, who note that the Constitution makes clear there should be no religious test for office.

Asked on Fox News Channel's "Hannity" on Monday if he stood by his Muslim comments, Carson replied: "Absolutely."

"You know what we have to do is we have to recognize this is America and we have a Constitution and we do not put people at the leadership of our country whose faith might interfere with carrying out the duties of the Constitution," the retired neurosurgeon was quoted as saying in excerpts from the interview airing on Monday night.

But he added he would be open to the idea of a moderate Muslim who denounced radical Islamists as a candidate for president.

When asked if he had meant to say "radical Islamists" in his "Meet the Press" interview, Carson said: "It was implied in the comment because I prefaced that by saying I don't care what religion or faith someone belongs to, if they're willing to subjugate to the American way and to our Constitution then I have no problem with it."

For more on the 2016 presidential race, see the Reuters blog, "Tales from the Trail" (here).

(Reporting by Peter Cooney; Editing by Eric Beech)

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