Guest Editorial:’Founding Fathers’ rolling in their graves with Gingrich
Guest Author, Craig Considine
Newt Gingrich is the leading Republican candidate for the 2012 Presidential election. In light of President Obama’s appalling approval rating, there is a decent chance that whoever comes out of the campaign as the Republican candidate could be the next leader of the ‘Free World’.
So… What kind of impact would President Newt Gingrich have? More specifically, how would Gingrich treat the American Muslim population? To shed light on these matters, let us turn to Gingrich’s position and sentiments towards Islam and American Muslims. In doing so, we can glimpse into the future of America’s identity in relation to its Muslim population.
Like his Republican counterparts, Gingrich throws around ‘radical Islamists’ loosely. For example, in a television interview with Fox, Gingrich suggested the leaders behind the construction of Park51 (‘the Ground Zero mosque’) are ‘radical Islamists’. Is this true? To put is simply, no. The main leader of Park51, Faisal Abdul Rauf, practices a version of Sufism and openly engages in interfaith dialogue work with Christians and Jews. Why is this important to American Muslims? Because Gingrich is either manipulating the truth to earn the votes of the Evangelical base, which he needs desperately, or he just actually isn’t qualified to know the difference between different streams of ‘Muslim thought’. Nonetheless, what is clear is Gingrich is willing to clump all Muslims into one big ball of ‘radicalism’. By no means is this healthy as it alienates practically all American Muslims.
Aside from painting all Muslims with the ‘radical’ brush, Gingrich also questions the patriotism and ‘Americanness’ of American Muslims. For example, during a CNN debate recently, Gingrich insinuates that all American Muslims are ‘guilty until proven innocent’ and should have to demonstrate their ‘loyalty’ before Americans should trust them. Like suggesting Abdul Rauf is a ‘radical’, this statement is downright ridiculous, especially considering American Muslims have paid the ultimate sacrifice – death - in the US Armed Forces. Why is this important to American Muslims? Because no matter how much American Muslims contribute to the United States, it may never be good enough for Gingrich, or for any other Republicans for that matter.
The fear mongering doesn’t stop with the CNN debate. Gingrich created a film entitled ‘America at Risk’, which is basically an exercise in propaganda which demonizes Islam and Muslims. In addition, roughly two years ago, Gingrich shared a Manhattan stage with the notorious Islamophobe Geert Wilders. Why is this important to American Muslims? Because Gingrich is an opponent to certain types of bigotry and discrimination only, and usually not the kind directed towards American Muslims.
Gingrich also seems lost on issues affecting the ummah. In discussing the Muslim Brotherhood during the Egyptian Revolution at a CPAC conference, Gingrich said the way of the Muslim Brotherhood is ‘jihad’, which is certainly another exaggeration, as ‘jihad’ is a loaded term with multiple meanings. For Gingrich, the Muslim Brotherhood ‘is an organization which has as its original founding slogan that our constitution is the Koran, our way is jihad, and our method is dying for Allah’. In fact, as noted in Foreign Policy, the Muslim Brotherhood denounced violence as an official party platform in the 1970s. Why is this important to American Muslims? Because Gingrich is either not well-informed on US foreign policy towards the Muslim world, or he’s simply spreading myths and lies for his own self-serving political purposes.
Gingrich, moreover, also proliferates the ‘clash of civilizations’ theory, which is as much a ‘theory’ as it is a myth. Speaking before the flock of evangelical preacher John Hagee, Gingrich said he is convinced that ‘if we do not decisively win the struggle over the nature of America, by the time they’re [grandchildren] are my age they will be in a secular atheist country, potentially one dominated by radical Islamists and with no understanding of what it once meant to be an America’. However, if we take a step back, we will realize that the percentage of American Muslims who are ‘radicals’ is so little it can hardly be counted. As Akbar Ahmed mentioned during an Anderson Cooper 360 debate, the percentage of Muslims that want sharia in the United States is less than 1%. Why is this important to American Muslims? Because Gingrich fears for the future of his country and this fear is largely due to the presence of Muslims.
Perhaps worst of all, Gingirch is willing to attack American Muslim civil rights organizations. At a book signing in Florida organized by The United West, which ‘is dedicated to defending and advancing Western Civilization against the kinetic and cultural onslaught of Shariah Islam’, Gingrich said that he would aggressively probe the Council of American Islamic Relations (CAIR) and other ‘Muslim Brotherhood’ groups, including the prominent Islamic Society of North American (ISNA). Why is this important to American Muslims? Because if Gingrich is willing to attack civil rights organisations, what other avenues will American Muslims have left to fight for justice and equality?
I personally cannot fathom the President of a country that was founded upon on religious freedom, religious tolerance, and pluralism behaving in such a bigoted manner. In the post Sept. 11 era, Americans such as Gingrich have forgotten that Benjamin Franklin in the 18th century welcomed Muslim clerics to preach Islam in Philadelphia and cited the Prophet Muhammad as a “model of compassion.” They have forgotten that Thomas Jefferson owned, read and learned from the Quran; that John Adams called the Prophet Muhammad one of the world’s “sober inquirers after truth” alongside such figures as Confucius and Socrates; and that George Washington welcomed people from all walks of life, regardless of religion, race or ethnicity.
Before you throw your support behind Gingrich, ask yourself: ‘is this man embodying the ideals of the ‘Founding Fathers’?.