Nothing ‘Anti-Muslim’ About Gingrich’s Comments on Shari’a, Says Anti-Islamist Muslim Activist

Patrick Goodenough | January 20, 2012 | 5:54am EST
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Republican presidential candidate, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, speaks at the Personhood USA forum in Greenville, S.C., Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2012. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

( – Newt Gingrich’s stance on Islamic law (shari’a) is not “anti-Muslim” as charged by some Islamic critics, an American Muslim activist said Thursday.

Instead it is those critical of Gingrich – the Council of American Islamic Relations (CAIR) – whose actions and motivations should be examined, in the view of M. Zuhdi Jasser, an observant, anti-Islamist American Muslim who is founder and president of the non-profit American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD).

“CAIR again proves that along with other Muslim Brotherhood legacy groups in America, they are simply grievance mills which irresponsibly derive their fuel from exaggerating Muslim victimization,” the Phoenix, Ariz.-based doctor told

CAIR earlier this week slammed Gingrich after the Republican presidential candidate, asked during a South Carolina campaign event whether he would ever endorse an American Muslim running for president, 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.”

He went on to point to the application of shari’a in countries like Saudi Arabia and Iran.

CAIR in response called Gingrich “one of the nation’s worst promoters of anti-Muslim bigotry” and said he “looks like a relic of an ugly era.”

“Any Muslim knows that shari’a is much a part – is completely a part of Islam and you can’t separate the two,” CAIR legislative director Corey Saylor told Iran’s state-funded Press TV. Saylor added that Gingrich’s comments amounted to a violation of the Constitution’s prohibition of a religious test for public office.

Invited to comment on Gingrich remarks and CAIR’s criticism, Jasser said, “There is nothing anti-Muslim, implied or otherwise against the free exercise of religion by Muslims in America from anyone who simply states that we Muslims need to come to terms with modernity and separate mosque and state.”

“That is in fact the mission of our American Islamic Forum for Democracy,” he said.

Jasser said Gingrich had “correctly contextualized his comments with the way shari’a is implemented in Saudi Arabia’s hate-filled public policy.”

Saylor’s comments, Jasser said, “demonstrate exactly how irrational Islamist groups like CAIR can get when they are directly confronted with the incompatibilities of Islamism and its instrument of shari’a with western society and modernity.”

“One would be hard-pressed to find any public repudiation of Saudi Arabia’s or Iran’s interpretation of shari’a by CAIR.”

Jasser stressed that public participation in the U.S. government of Muslims – or adherents of any religion – should never be subject to a “faith litmus test.”

“However, Islamism and its inherent desire to implement the public (not the personal) doctrine of shari’a as an instrument of an Islamic state, whether Muslims are a minority or a majority, is a dangerous theo-political ideology that is very relevant to the qualifications and disqualifications of any Muslim running for office or sensitive government appointment,” he argued.

“Mr. Gingrich is accurate in making that distinction.”

‘Islamist fear-mongering’

CAIR is not alone in its position on the shari’a issue. The Islamic Society of North America has pledged to make a priority in 2012 of “proactively responding to the anti-Muslim bigotry that spreads fear and misunderstandings about Islam through their anti-shari’a campaigns.”

In contrast to CAIR and likeminded groups’ stance on shari’a, Jasser noted that AIFD last September joined a group of North American Muslim leaders in voicing support for a Michigan state bill that would bar courts in the state from enforcing any foreign law, if doing so would violate any rights guaranteed by the Michigan or U.S. Constitution.

“As American Muslims, we believe that the law should treat people of all faiths equally, while protecting Muslims and non-Muslims alike from extremist attempts to use the legal instrument of shari’a (also known as Islamic jurisprudence, or fiqh) to incubate, within the West, a highly politicized and dangerous understanding of Islam that is generally known as ‘Islamism,’ or ‘radical Islam,’” the leaders said in a statement at the time.

“As American Muslims we are conscious of the fact that Muslim Brotherhood legacy groups and other Islamists and their surrogates in the U.S. are trying their best to portray any opposition to manifestations of shari’a law as ‘racism’ and ‘discrimination against Muslims.’ However, as a coalition of traditional, liberal and secular Muslim Americans, we denounce this fear-mongering and playing of the race card, which only serves to mask the Islamists’ highly politicized agenda.”

The signatories comprise the American Islamic Leadership Coalition, which calls itself “a diverse coalition of liberty-minded, North American Muslim leaders and organizations.”

Members include representatives of the Alliance for Democracy in Iran, Council for Democracy and Tolerance, Muslim Canadian Congress, World Muslim Congress, Alliance of Iranian Women and Reform Party of Syria.

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