It is an old topic for him, and one he’s been pushing for years, but the presidential campaign has brought growing attention to former House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s campaign to portray Sharia law as a “mortal threat” to the entire planet and a Cold War-style enemy.
A new article in the New York Times goes back to Gingrich’s past comments on the “threat” and something he calls “stealth jihadis,” which he defines as people who “use political, cultural, societal, religious or intellectual tools” to advance their goals.
Which on its face seems to be the way ideas are supposed to be advanced. Yet Gingrich portrays them as a threat “as grave as or graver than terrorism,” arguing that the end result would be the same.
Sharia is a form of religiously-based law which is practiced in some overwhelmingly Muslim nations, and is widely interpreted across those nations in very different forms. Sharia-based legal traditions are also used in some Western nations as a method of arbitration to settle disputes within the Muslim communities.
But within the US, the term commonly envisions a Taliban-style ultra-conservative religious code, and a number of politicians, including Gingrich and several of his competitors in the upcoming vote, have sought to paint it as a dire existential threat to America that needs to be banned outright. The “stealth jihadi” label suggests that Gingrich is also considering harsh measures against those who advocate it publicly.
The question of Sharia law in the US has becoming an increasingly political one, with former Senate candidate Sharron Angle claiming Sharia had already been imposed in the city of Dearborn, MI (to the shock of the city’s mayor) and was being used to persecute Christians. Oklahoma’s state legislature overwhelmingly voting to ban its use, even voluntarily among Muslims, and despite admitting there was no evidence it was being used, even voluntarily.
In practice, experts say the threat is entirely illusory, with no real possibility that America’s small Muslim community is going to somehow impose Sharia in any form over the rest of the population. With the sense that it could be targeted for political gain, it looks to take a major role in policy speeches among many candidates looking to appear “tough” on Muslims.
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