By Zeke J Miller
March 18, 2015

Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson said Wednesday that the roots of radical Islam are the biblical conflict between Jacob and Esau.

In an interview with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt, the former pediatric neurosurgeon argued that the origins of groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria are the fight between two brothers described in the book of Genesis.

“Well first of all you have to recognize they go back thousands and thousands of years. Really back to the battle between Jacob and Esau,” he said. “But it has been a land issue for a very long period of time.”

Hewitt, who has a penchant for grilling Republican candidates in detail about foreign policy, pushed back at the comparison, noting that the prophet Muhammad died in 632, while the story of Jacob and Esau is from before the birth of Christ.

“The Islamic faith emanated from Esau,” Carson countered.

Another set of siblings described in the book of Genesis — Isaac and Ishmael — are more frequently described as the respective forefathers of Judaism and Islam.

Carson also said that he thinks the warring factions of Sunni and Shia Islam will one day unite against the United States.

“In the long run I think they would gladly unite against us in their attempts to destroy the United States., our way of life, and Israel,” Carson said, espousing a position viewed dimly by foreign policy experts.

Carson’s White House bid stems largely from his public speaking ability and willingness to challenge President Obama on the Affordable Care Act at the National Prayer Breakfast in 2013. But he has a long history of controversial statements, being forced earlier this month to apologize for saying homosexuality is a choice and that prison makes people gay.

But his support is already eroding as other presidential contenders enter the field.

Here’s a transcript of Carson and Hewitt discussing ISIS and Islamic extremism:

Contact us at editors@time.com.

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