In response to the latest terrorist atrocity, Newt Gingrich, the former speaker of the House, and quite possibly the next secretary of state, suggested that the U.S. should investigate American Muslims to ascertain their level of commitment to sharia, or Islamic law. (Details about the attacker, and his motives, were still emerging as of Friday morning; police sources have said the attacker was a young French Tunisian, though at press time there was no official confirmation.) “Western civilization is in a war. We should frankly test every person here who is of a Muslim background, and if they believe in sharia, they should be deported,” Gingrich told Fox’s Sean Hannity. “Sharia is incompatible with Western civilization. Modern Muslims who have given up sharia, glad to have them as citizens. Perfectly happy to have them next door.”
There are a number of problems with the timing and content of Gingrich’s statement. At a moment when the world—and by “world,” I mean all non-Muslims and Muslims who reject the ideology of ISIS and the theology of radical Islamism—should be united in its defense of enlightened civilization, Gingrich, and others like him, do ISIS a favor by making Islam itself the culprit. The war we are experiencing is not primarily a war between civilizations, but a war within a civilization. ISIS, and its fellow travelers, will ultimately be defeated only by Muslims themselves, including Muslims who adhere to Islamic law. Muslims who meet with ISIS disapproval—which is to say, most Muslims—are the constant targets of murderous Islamists. The countries that are fighting ISIS include several Muslim-led, Muslim-majority states, and include states that are governed by Islamic law. Among other goals, ISIS seeks to convince devout Muslims that there is no place for them in the West. Suggestions like Gingrich’s reinforce this core ISIS message.