(CNSNews.com) – Newt Gingrich’s comments on shari’a, which drew Muslim objections Wednesday, are in line with his view that Islamists who use violence, and those who employ “stealth,” are both committed to the same goal – the radical imposition of Islamic law.
The Republican presidential contender and former House speaker has called for a federal law that would prohibit any American court from considering the principles of shari’a in place of U.S. law.
“Stealth jihadis use political, cultural, societal, religious, intellectual tools; violent jihadis use violence,” he said in a national security speech at the American Enterprise Institute in June 2010.
“But in fact, they’re both engaged in jihad and they’re both seeking to impose the same end state, which is to replace Western civilization with a radical imposition of shari’a.”
“It’s time we had a national debate on this,” Gingrich told the AEI audience. “One of the things I’m going to suggest today is a federal law which says no court anywhere in the United States under any circumstance is allowed to consider shari’a as a replacement for American law.”
During a campaign event in South Carolina on Wednesday, Gingrich said that he supports a federal law that “preempts” the use of Islamic law in American courts.
Asked whether he would ever endorse a Muslim running for president, he replied, “It would depend entirely on whether they would commit in public to give up shari’a.”
“A truly modern person who happened to worship Allah would not be a threat,” Gingrich continued. “A person who belonged to any kind of belief in shari’a – any kind of effort to impose that on the rest of us, would be a mortal threat.”
“Newt is absolutely right in making such a distinction,” Center for Security Policy president Frank Gaffney wrote on the National Review Online blog. “The danger we currently face from the so-called Muslim world arises not from the fact that people are Muslim, but from the extent to which they adhere to the totalitarian, supremacist Islamic doctrine of shari’a.”
The Council of American Islamic Relations (CAIR) called Gingrich’s ideas “outdated.”
“The time for bias in American politics has passed and Newt Gingrich looks like a relic of an ugly era,” said the advocacy group’s legislative director, Corey Saylor. A CAIR statement called the presidential candidate “one of the nation’s worst promoters of anti-Muslim bigotry.”
Gingrich is not alone among the 2012 GOP presidential hopefuls – and former hopefuls – to have made critical comments about shari’a during the campaign.
Rick Santorum was quoted as telling a meeting in New Hampshire last March that Islamic law was “evil” and “incompatible with American jurisprudence and our constitution.”
A month earlier he told the CPAC conference that President Obama “doesn’t say that jihadism is evil; he doesn’t say that shari’a law is incompatible with western civilization and the United States – which they are.”
Michelle Bachmann, who has since withdrawn from the campaign, told an Iowa radio station last November that shari’a “certainly does not have a place in a United States courtroom, nor should it be followed by United States judges.”
During a New Hampshire debate last June, Herman Cain – also no longer in the race – declared, “I do not believe in shari’a law in American courts. I believe in American laws in American courts, period.”
Mitt Romney, invited to respond to Cain’s comments, implied that the issue was not an pressing one.
“Well, first of all, of course, we’re not going to have shari’a law applied in U.S. courts,” he said. “That's never going to happen. We have a constitution and we follow the law.”
In Nov. 2010, voters in Oklahoma passed by a large margin a constitutional amendment barring courts in the state from considering or using shari’a. A local CAIR activist sued and was awarded a preliminary injunction. Last week the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the injunction, saying the measure backed by the state’s voters was “likely unconstitutional.”
According to CAIR, the Oklahoma anti-shari’a amendment was one of more than 20 similar pieces of legislation introduced in state legislatures across the U.S.
CAIR and other critics of the anti-shari’a campaign say it is driven by “Islamophobia.”
“Muslim Americans, just like all Americans, want a secular government and do not want to see a legal system based in any form of religious law, including Islamic shari’a law, therefore making the fear of a shari’a takeover just another unfounded scare tactic from Islamophobes across the nation,” the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) said in a statement responding to the Jan. 10 Court of Appeals ruling.
ISNA says it aims to prioritize this year “proactively responding to the anti-Muslim bigotry that spreads fear and misunderstandings about Islam through their anti-shari’a campaigns.”
(CAIR and ISNA were both named by federal prosecutors in 2007 among “unindicted co-conspirators” in a case against the Holy Land Foundation in Texas. Five former Holy Land organizers were convicted the following year of providing funding support to the Palestinian terrorist group, Hamas.)
In his AEI speech in 2010, Gingrich cited extreme practices linked to shari’a in some Islamic states, such as the stoning to death of those convicted of adultery, “painful execution” for homosexuals, and the fact that under shari’a, a rape victim is required to present four male witnesses to back her claim, failing which she can herself be charged with adultery.
But he also raised less obviously controversial issues raised by allowing Islamic norms to take hold in the West.
“I would cite to you for example the case in Minnesota where a blind student was exempted from a course and given credit without attending because his seeing-eye dog offended Muslim students,” Gingrich said.
“If you want to know what appeasement is like in America, if you want to know why this is a problem here at home, this is the kind of stuff that’s going on because nobody in our secular elites is prepared to stand up and defend Western civilization against the routine steady erosion,” he said.
Gingrich also cautioned against financial systems based on shari’a principles.
“Teaching about shari’a financing is dangerous, because it is the first step towards the normalization of shari’a, and I believe shari’a is a mortal threat to the survival of freedom in the United States and in the world as we know it,” he said. “I think it’s that straightforward and that real.”
“Shari’a-compliant finance” has been growing in popularity in recent years, both in the Islamic world and increasingly among Muslims in western societies.
Shari’a forbids usury – the collection and payment of interest – and also shuns excessive risk and heavy borrowing. “Shari’a-compliant” banking and financial products aim to avoid companies that are heavily indebted or have links to gambling, pork, alcohol and pornography.
U.S. critics say shari’a finance aims to introduce shari’a principles into the United States by stealth.