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Salon.com: Newt: For Shariah law before he was against it

8 June 2011 General No Comment Email This Post Email This Post

BY JUSTIN ELLIOTT

Newt Gingrich has become one of the most vocal Muslim-baiting Republicans in the country, from his call for a federal ban on Shariah to his comparison of the organizers of the “ground zero mosque” to Nazis. But 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.

Gingrich’s changing relationship with the Muslim community mirrors a similar evolution in the Republican Party at large. President Bush won amajority of Muslim votes in 2000, but after Sept. 11 and the subsequent passage of the Patriot Act, the invasion of Iraq, and Abu Ghraib, Muslim Americans shifted to the Democratic column. After Bush — who had at least given rhetorical support to the idea of non-discrimination — left office, explicitly anti-Muslim voices in the GOP became more prominent, most visibly during the hullabaloo last summer about the planned Islamic community center near ground zero.

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