Two of the leading Republican presidential contenders, Dr. Ben Carson and Donald Trump, have risen in the polls in part by lampooning political correctness and attempting not to conform to pontificating ideological standards imposed by mainstream media and the White House.

One of the biggest flashpoints involves treatment of Muslims and, by inference, radical Islam. Mr. Trump was criticized following a recent town hall meeting where he failed to dispute an audience member’s comment to the effect that America has a Muslim problem. Trump justified his silence by claiming to have inferred the comment was really directed toward radical Islam.

A few days later, Dr. Carson said that he “would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with this.”

The Washington Post, among others, threw a conniption, and Carson — possibly out of character — retreated and later said he could support a Muslim as president, assuming “they’re willing to reject (major Islamic) tenets and to accept the way of life we have here, and will clearly swear to place our Constitution above their religion ...”

The Obama Administration has been ultra-sensitive regarding the “War on Terror” and any implied relationship between modern-day terrorism and Islam in order to protect non-radical Muslims from prejudice. Accordingly, we really don’t have a war on terror anymore, but an extended “overseas contingency operation.”

President Barack Obama’s former Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, relabeled terrorism per se as “man-caused disasters.”

In fact, we’re careful not to describe anyone of Middle Eastern background who happens to be a Muslim and who commits abhorrently violent acts against non-Muslims as a terrorist because to do so repeatedly might create the impression that there’s something generally wrong with Islam and the people who practice it, thus perpetuating profiling, stereotyping and so forth.

There’s no question that avoiding that type of thing is important, but to ignore that radical Islam is becoming a worldwide menace is turning a blind eye to some very clear realities, not the least of which is that radical Islam is not the same as Islam. The government is doing its part to ensure that Americans understand this, as already corroborated by those who have traveled to countries such as Morocco and Turkey and know the average Muslim to be peaceful and loving.

Unfortunately, in this day and age, the fringes of Islam are ruining things for everybody, and that’s what has people concerned about the waves of immigration taking place in Europe and possibly the United States.

Although various radical Islamic factions have come and gone over the centuries, the explosion of hatred ignited by Osama bin Laden and his minions capitalized on political, social and economic problems which were inflamed by using most extreme and fundamentalist traditions of Islam to gain power over nonbelievers while implicating the greatest Satan of all: The United States of America.

According to the official 9/11 Commission report on terrorism, radical Islamists blame America for all conflicts involving Muslims, a charge that resonates with the disaffected faithful angry at the United States over lapses in morality, issues ranging from Iraq to Palestine and U.S. support of repressive regimes. Bin Laden asserted that the only way to stop further attacks would be to abandon the Middle East, convert to Islam and end the godlessness of its society and culture.

“It is saddening to tell you,” he said, “that you are the worst civilization witnessed by the history of mankind.” Comply, he said, or be at war with the Islamic nation, a nation that al-Qaida’s leaders claimed, “desires death more than you desire life.”

So that’s the basic mindset we’re dealing with. Even though bin Laden has been dead for over four years, al-Qaida and other related groups such as ISIS, Hezbollah and Hamas continue to sponsor terrorist activities, much of which we see right here at home.

According to the website, there have been 43 Islamic terror attacks on U.S. soil since September 11, 2001, with 77 fatalities (not to mention multiple injuries, including 264 people as a result of the attack during the Boston Marathon in April 2013.) The same website lists daily statistics and claims that more people are killed by extremists each year than in all of the 350 years of the Spanish Inquisition combined.

So, yes, we are a country of immigrants and should welcome immigration, as long as we’re not deliberately hoisting our own petard in the process. A recent Kiplinger letter says that the United States won’t take in many of the millions of refugees fleeing Syria — only about 10,000 — and they will be staggered in waves that will provide time to screen out potential terrorists. Hopefully, that is.

One of the most important issues of the current campaign is the problem of radical Islam and expanding terrorist cells. And thus far I don’t recall hearing much in the way of definitive plans addressing it.

Edward M. Gilbreth is a Charleston physician. Reach him at