Rep. Andre Carson said he does not advocate educating American students in Muslim principles and that his comments at a recent convention were taken out of context.
The Democratic congressman, who is Muslim, spoke in May to the convention of the Islamic Circle of North America and stressed the importance of education.
"America will never tap into educational innovation and ingenuity without looking at the model that we have in our madrassas, in our schools, where innovation is encouraged, where the foundation is the Quran," Carson told the convention.
Madrassas, the Arabic word for school, have a reputation in Saudi Arabia and Britain for teaching anti-Western values.
Carson said Monday he in no way wanted to suggest that American schools should teach Islamic principles, only that public schools might want to study the methods used by religious schools of all denominations to see why they work so much better.
"What I want to do is allow us to have an honest discussion about why graduation rates in public schools are embarrassingly low and faith-based institutions and educational institutions seem to have higher graduation rates," Carson said.
Carson said he wants to know if the secret is smaller classrooms, more room for teachers to adapt or something else. But he stressed he doesn't want public schools teaching religious beliefs.
"Absolutely not, Carson said. I strongly believe in separation of church and state."
Carson's Republican opponent, Carlos May, criticized the statement as too vague and offering no actual solutions.
"Now, maybe I'm taking his words out of context, but that right there alludes to part of the problem, being so vague," May said. "You know, all his statement did was really raise more questions than give any answers."
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