In the clip at the top of this post, Gingrich says, "Now, I think we need to have a government that respects our religions. I'm a little bit tired about respecting every religion on the planet. I'd like them to respect our religion." Of course, the U.S. government is compelled by the Constitution to afford protection to religion generally, and "our" religion includes Islam, a faith many Americans practice. That's just the beginning of what Gingrich has said about this minority group. In this clip, he likens Muslim Americans seeking to build a mosque in Lower Manhattan to Nazis building next to the Holocaust Museum. He once suggested that the right of Muslims to build mosques should be infringed upon by the U.S. government until Christians are permitted to build churches in Saudi Arabia, a straightforward suggestion that we violate the Constitution in order to mimic authoritarians. He favors a federal law that would pre-empt sharia law -- though not the religious law of any other faith -- from being used in American courts, which would be the solution to a total non-problem.
And no surprise, for he regularly engages in the most absurd kind of fear-mongering. To cite one example:
I think that we have to really, from my perspective you don't have an issue of religious tolerance you have an elite which favors radical Islam over Christianity and Judaism. You have constant pressure by secular judges and by religious bigots to drive Christianity out of public life and to establish a secular state except when it comes to radical Islam, where all of the sudden they start making excuses for Sharia, they start making excuses that we really shouldn't use certain language. Remember, the Organization of Islamic Countries is dedicated to preventing anyone, anywhere in the world from commenting negatively about Islam, so they would literally eliminate our free speech and there were clearly conversations held that implied that the U.S. Justice Department would begin to enforce censorship against American citizens to protect radical Islam, I think that's just an amazing concept frankly.
If Gingrich believed all of this it would be damning. I'll leave it to the reader to decide whether it is more or less damning that his tone, and much of his substance, is in fact a calculated pander. Justin Elliott at Salon demonstrated as much when he delved into how Gingrich used to talk about these issues:
Gingrich's recent rhetoric represents a little-noticed shift from an
earlier period in his career when he had a strikingly warm relationship
with the American Muslim community. As speaker of the House in the
1990s, for example, Gingrich played a key role in setting aside space
on Capitol Hill for Muslim congressional staffers to pray each Friday;
he was involved with a Republican Islamic group that promoted
Shariah-compliant finance, which critics -- including Gingrich -- now
deride as a freedom-destroying abomination; and he maintained close ties
with another Muslim conservative group that even urged Gingrich to run
for president in 2007.
The article goes on to note:
Gingrich's warm relations with the Muslim community continued well
into the mid-2000s. Around 2004, for example, he participated in a
planning meeting of the Islamic Free Market Institute, according to an
activist who also attended the meeting. "His tone was nothing like what
you hear today," recalls the activist. "He was very positive, very
supportive. His whole attitude was that Muslims are part of the American
fabric and that Muslim Americans should be Republicans." By the
standards of the Gingrich we know today, the Islamic Free Market
Institute was essentially engaged in "stealth jihad." The now defunct
group, founded by conservative activist Grover Norquist in 1998 to woo
Muslim Americans to the GOP, was involved in educating the public and
policymakers about Islamic or Shariah-compliant finance. Its 2004 IRS filing
reported the group spent tens of thousands of dollars to "educate the
public about Islam[ic] finances, insurance, banking and investments." To
most people, there's nothing nefarious about Islamic finance -- there is
a large international banking business centering on special financial
instruments that are compliant with Islamic strictures against interest,
and so on.
So in 2004 Gingrich attended a planning meeting of a
group devoted to promoting Shariah-compliant finance. Fast forward to
2010 and here's what he said in his speech to the American Enterprise
Institute: "[I]t's why I think teaching about Sharia financing is
dangerous, because it is the first step towards the normalization of
Sharia and I believe Sharia is a mortal threat to the survival of
freedom in the United States and in the world as we know it."
If an American politician suggested, of Christians or Jews, that they should be required to take a special loyalty oath before assuming office; that the government should restrict where they're permitted to build houses of worship; that laws should be passed singling out their religious law as odious; that they don't count when Americans talk about "our" religion; that their main lobbying group should be aggressively investigated: if any American politician said any of those things, they'd be regarded as an anti-religious bigot engaged in a war on Christianity.