Newt Gingrich, who holds a Ph.D. in European History and is thus a presumptively educated man, has delivered yet another questionable statement: “We should frankly test every person here who is of a Muslim background and if they believe in Sharia, they should be deported.” Over the decades, Gingrich is known for making unintelligent speeches, without weighing the consequences of his thoughtless philosophies. In 2011, Gingrich said: “I am convinced that if we do not decisively win the struggle over the nature of America, by the time they’re my age, they will be in a secular atheist country, potentially one dominated by radical Islamists.” Gingrich has not yet explained how an atheist transformation of America will be dominated by radical Islamists for whom a belief in One God is central to faith. Driven by an inflated self-concept of competence, Gingrich says things and then spends a lifetime retracting his foolery.
Gingrich’s proposal of making belief as a ground for deportation cannot be taken seriously. Of course, illegal Muslim immigrants can be deported without any reason. But deporting legal immigrants on grounds of belief will be a radical development in immigration law. The immensity of the Gingrich proposal ignores that millions of American Muslims are citizens of the United States, both naturalized and native-born. Under the proposal, American Muslims born in the United States, like Representative Keith Ellison, who might believe in the Shariah, will stand deportation. But deported to where remains an unresolved riddle. In making dubious statements, Former Speaker of the House Gingrich comes across as a graceless leader who, as a prior lawmaker, should know better.
We should frankly test every person here who is of a Muslim background and if they believe in Sharia, they should be deported. Newt Gingrich
What is Shariah?
It appears that Gingrich, like some other scared critics of Islam, has a poor understanding of the Shariah. The critics of Islam identify Shariah with terrorism, burqa, and harsh criminal punishments such as stoning for adultery. The fear of the Shariah is widespread, particularly among white male circles, as is the fear of African Americans. Prompted by panic, prejudice, and phobia, some state legislators have passed constitutional amendments or legislation against the enforcement of Shariah in state courts, ignoring the First Amendment protections of religious freedom. Fortunately, the federal courts have struck down the attempts to de-legalize Shariah.
For practicing Muslims, Shariah is a set of beliefs and a code of rules that govern the daily life of individuals and families. Foremost, Shariah means a belief in One God and respect for prophets, including Abraham, Moses and Jesus. Shariah regulates, among numerous things, the times of prayers, the rituals of prayers, the times of fasting in the month of Ramadhan, and the amount of mandatory charity annually dispensed to the poor and the needy.
Shariah also instructs Muslims to speak truthfully but gently, be kind to children, keep the aging and sick parents at home, respect the privacy of neighbors, refrain from cruelty to animals, reject adultery and take care of an ill spouse. The Shariah also carries the complicated rules of inheritance, trusts, donations, partnership, financing, arbitration, evidence, judicial ethics, and rational proof-based judgments. In the Middle centuries, the common law of England freely borrowed from the rules of the Shariah. Many Shariah rules are similar to Jewish law freely practiced and officially recognized in the United States.
The U.S. Constitution protects the free exercise of Islam, that is, protects the Shariah that Muslim families practice in living spiritually satisfying lives. For the most part, the Shariah and the Constitution are compatible. In matters of incompatibility, there is no possibility that the Shariah would modify the U.S. Constitution; or, the state and federal courts would enforce any elements of the Shariah that violate the Bill of Rights or any other deeply embedded legal values. Whipping up the fear that the Shariah undermines the U.S. Constitution is based on faulty assumptions and lack of knowledge.
If there is any danger to the integrity of the Constitution and American values of religious liberty, it comes from provocateurs like Trump, Cruz and Gingrich. Many well-informed Americans, including Mike Pence, Trump’s pick for the vice president, oppose the hatred against Islam and American Muslims trumped up by politicians, evangelists, neocons and other dubious characters.