Never a Muslim president? Minnesota boy, 12, tells Ben Carson he's wrong

Yusuf Dayur, 12
Yusuf Dayur, 12, recorded a video in response to GOP presidential candidate Ben Carson's suggestion that Muslim-Americans should not be allowed to become president.
Tim Nelson | MPR News

When GOP presidential candidate Ben Carson said a Muslim shouldn't become a president of the United States, Yusuf Dayur couldn't remain silent.

Listening to Carson's comments on YouTube troubled Yusuf enough that he asked his mother to grab her smartphone and record him.

"This is my response to presidential candidate Ben Carson," Yusuf began in a calm, soft voice.

The 12-year-old Eden Prairie middle-schooler paused. What followed next sounded like a politician responding to the president's State of the Union address.

In two minutes and 20 seconds, Yusuf spoke about race, religion and slavery. He also announced his future candidacy for president of the United States.

"Mr. Carson," he continued, sitting on a couch in his home, "what if someone told you that you can't become president because of your color? What if someone told you that you can't become president because of your race? What if someone told you can't become president because of your faith? And that's what you did to me."

Yusuf, who was born in St. Louis Park, then talked about his desire since age 2 or 3 to become president. When he was in preschool, he said, "I would brag to my little, tiny friends that I'm going to be a president one day."

"What if someone told you that you can't become president because of your race? What if someone told you can't become president because of your faith? And that's what you did to me."

Then he collected his thoughts and became a bit sentimental.

"You basically shattered my dream," he told Carson, "because you said that a Muslim president cannot become president."

Yusuf pointed out that "back in the '60s, '70s during slavery, people would say black people cannot become president."

President Obama broke that barrier. Yusuf wants to break a barrier, too.

"I will become the first Muslim president," he said, "and you will see that when I become president I will respect people of all faiths, all colors and all religions."

The video, which was originally posted to the Facebook page of Yusuf's mother, has garnered more than 100,000 views and has been shared about 4,000 times.

In a Sunday interview on NBC, Carson said he didn't believe that Islam was consistent with the U.S. Constitution. "I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that."

In a Facebook post Monday, Carson elaborated on his comments, writing, "I could never support a candidate for President of the United States that was Muslim and had not renounced the central tenet of Islam: Sharia Law."

While Carson's NBC comments led Yusuf to record his response, his views on American presidential politics go far beyond this one issue.

Yusuf is not your average middle-school kid.

In an interview with MPR News, the Somali-American boy breathlessly talked about complex issues ranging from Iran's nuclear deal to First Lady Michelle Obama's push to make meals healthier in the federal school lunch program.

"They took away the cheese in our cheeseburgers and made them hamburgers instead," he said about the first lady's school lunches. "I really missed that cheese."

Yusuf Dayur and his family
Yusuf Dayur, center, with his family -- sister Yusra, mother Shukri Abukar, brother Yasir, sister Yasmin, sister Tasneema and father Hassan Mohamed -- outside their home in Eden Prairie.
Tim Nelson | MPR News

Yusuf, the eldest of five children, goes to Central Middle School. He lambasted Donald Trump over comments he made about the appearance of fellow GOP candidate, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina.

"That was just plain old rude," he said. "That was something that a kindergartener or first-grader would say. I guess he's not a politician."

Yusuf, who loves science and social studies, said he doesn't admire any specific politician, although he mentioned he would vote for a Democrat if he had the chance, "Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders."

He then made it clear that he's up to speed with campaign politics.

"If Joe Biden joins the race," he said, "then it'll be Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton. I'll vote for one of those."

What does he think of Obama?

"President Obama is all right," he said. "He's not amazing and he's not trouble."

"I want my son to achieve his dream."

But Yusuf lauded Obama's policy toward Iran and said it's a good decision.

Shukri Abukar, Yusuf's mother, came to the U.S. in 1992. She said her son likes to watch news and videos from YouTube and follows presidential campaigns, and even Somali politics.

"I push him to do that," she said. "If that's his dream, I help him along. I want my son to achieve his dream."

When he was 3 years old, Yusuf started wearing ties and suits, she said, because he wanted to look presidential after he saw former President George W. Bush on TV.

Abukar, who worked for Eden Prairie schools for four years, said she hears encouraging feedback from Yusuf's teachers, who told her that her son will one day become a leader and to look after him.

"I'll do my best," she said. "I cannot wait to see when his dream becomes a reality."

If he is elected president some day, Yusuf said he will make his cabinet more diverse and will pick "good people, political-wise."

Yusuf said he hopes Carson will leave the presidential race. "Before his remarks," he said, "I kind of liked Ben Carson, but not anymore."

Carson doesn't know enough about Islam, he added.

"Most people who aren't educated in Islam and don't really know what Islam is," he said, "People just assume that ISIS and al-Qaida, they think that is Islam, but it truly isn't."

At the end of his video, Yusuf said people from all different faiths should be treated with respect.

"Obviously," he told Carson, "you don't know what respect is."

"My name is Yusuf Dayur," he concluded. "And guess what? I don't care what you say because I'll become president."

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