In an extraordinary declaration, Newt Gingrich wants to violate the Constitutional rights of millions of American citizens for a false sense of security.
Following Thursday’s terrorist attack in Nice, France, the former speaker of the house wants to test “every person here who is of a Muslim background” on their beliefs, and deport them if they believe in Shariah, a legal code based on the Quran and Islamic scriptures, according to NBC News.
“Western civilization is in a war. We should, frankly, test every person here who is of a Muslim background and if they believe in Shariah, they should be deported,” Gingrich said on a Fox News appearance with Sean Hannity.
Were Gingrich’s idea to become law, it would be a violation of basic rights for American citizens not seen since Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s interment of Japanese Americans during World War II.
How Gingrich defines Shariah is unclear.
“Modern Muslims who have given up Shariah – glad to have them as citizens. Perfectly happy to have them next door. But we need to be fairly relentless about defining who our enemies are,” Gingrich said.
The crusade against Shariah isn’t a new idea from Gingrich. More than a dozen American states had considered outlawing Shariah law in 2011, according to The New York Times. What Americans politicians don’t seem to understand, however, is what Shariah law is.
“The crusade against Shariah undermines American democracy, ignores our country’s successful history of religious tolerance and assimilation, and creates a dangerous divide between America and its fastest-growing religious minority,” Eliyahu Stern wrote for The Times.
Politicians who proclaim the dangers of Shariah law have very little knowledge of what they purport to reject, creating a dichotomy of freedom (the West) versus tyranny (Shariah law). It’s not new.
“It sometimes seems as if we need Shariah as Westerners have long needed Islam: as a canvas on which to project our ideas of the horrible, and as a foil to make us look good,” Noel Feldman wrote for The New York Times Magazine.
This abuse of language isn’t surprising, but it’s dangerous.
“One reason for the divergence between Western and Muslim views of Shariah is that we are not all using the word to mean the same thing. Although it is commonplace to use the word ‘Shariah’ and the phrase ‘Islamic law’ interchangeably, this prosaic English translation does not capture the full set of associations that the term ‘Shariah’ conjures for the believer. Shariah, properly understood, is not just a set of legal rules. To believing Muslims, it is something deeper and higher, infused with moral and metaphysical purpose. At its core, Shariah represents the idea that all human beings — and all human governments — are subject to justice under the law,” Feldman wrote.
Simply put, Newt Gingrich does not know what Shariah means. But he knows that it frightens people, and exploiting that fear gets him political support.
In some ways, Shariah can overlap with values held by the West.
“For many Muslims today, living in corrupt autocracies, the call for Shariah is not a call for sexism, obscurantism, or savage punishment but for an Islamic version of what the West considers its most prized principle of political justice: the rule of law,” Feldman wrote.
Deporting American citizens for believing in Shariah doesn’t mean the government would protect Americans from terrorists. Instead, it would lead millions of Americans to have their rights violated by the government because some politicians seized an opportunity to grow their power and push a false sense of security.
“This is the fault of Western elites who lack the guts to do what is right, to do what is necessary, and to tell us the truth. And that starts with Barack Obama,” Gingrich said.
If Gingrich wants politicians to tell the truth, he should start by educating himself on Western values and what Muslims believe instead of trying to violate the rule of law and the principles of Western civilization. The American government has a duty to keep its citizens safe against terrorist attacks. It follows, then, that the American government should understand actual threats and take precautions against them instead of catering to fear and stereotype. The former approach preserves liberty and improves security. The latter gives the government dangerous new powers that run roughshod over Western values that made the country great.
The new Republican Party of Gingrichs and Donald Trumps embrace this inaccurate narrative that more government force and violation of basic American rights will Make America Safe Again. As they push further away from the Constitution, they’re pushing voters away. At least some Americans prefer individual rights over government license.