Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Sharia Smokescreen

In the United States today there is a growing fear of Sharia Law encroaching on our liberties. The loudest voice in the media on this subject in the US is Newt Gingrich, the former Speaker of the House during the mid 90s. While the media reports his claims they have yet to look into the ties has with radical religious groups in America. By rallying the fear of foreign takeover he is effectively running a smokescreen for his fundamentalist Christian allies. While advocating for family values and against Sharia encroachment Gingrich works to advance an agenda every bit as radical as jihadi terrorism.


The start of these claims came with the increasing publicity surrounding the Park51 Muslim community center controversy. On July 28th Gingrich posted his condemnation of the project on his website. Part of his denunciation included his assertion that the project was part of a global effort to impose Islamic fundamentalism on the United States and the world. In his remarks he specifically noted, “Radical Islamists see politics and religion as inseparable in a way it is difficult for Americans to understand”. He continued to speak out against the Park51 center throughout the month of August. On September 12th Gingrich released a direct to DVD documentary called America at Risk, a film about the threat Islamic fundamentalism poses to the United States. He then followed up with his call at the Values Voter Summit on September 18th for a federal law banning Sharia law in the United States. Newt Gingrich has continued to put himself out in front on the issue of anti-Sharia efforts in the US with the media reporting his efforts at face value.


The irony is that his crusade against religious fundamentalism in America starts and stops when the threat is any form of religious extremism that isn't Christian. An excellent example of this selective approach can be found in the venue where he called for a ban on Sharia law. The sponsors for the Values Voters Summit include the Family Research Council's political action group, the American Family Association's action group, American Values, Liberty University, and the Heritage Foundation. The FRC and AFA are both groups that are fairly prominent in the Religious Right as major organizations that have long, established standing and reputations. Liberty University is an institution billed as the premier Christian university in America and was founded by the late Jerry Falwell to educate their students in a proper, Christian fashion. American Values was founded by Gary Bauer, President of the Family Research Council until 1999. With the exception of the Heritage Foundation, who attended only to provide issue education, each of these organizations stand for the flagship positions of the Religious Right. Each is highly active in organizing evangelical and fundamentalist Christian activists in and out of government. On the front page is a list of breakout sessions including highlights such as, “American Apocalypse--When Christians Do Nothing, Secularists Do Everything--The Case for Christian Activism”, “How to Reach the Online Generation (Without Losing Your Soul)”, and, “Establishing a Culture Impact Team In Your Church”. Among other things all of these groups are very vocal in their claim that separation of church and state is unconstitutional.


Gingrich is no stranger to Christian conservatives. He worked with social conservative groups extensively under the slogan of Family Values while he was Speaker of the House during the mid 90s. Since then he has remained an active professional speaker and author. One of the more prominent gigs was the 2007 commencement address at Liberty University. During his speech he praised the founder Jerry Falwell and called for the graduates to challenge, “radical secularism.” The themes he covered in his speech were the same that he argued for in his 2006 book Rediscovering God in America. In his book Gingrich argues that advancing secularism is working to drive God out of public life in America. At the Rediscovery of God in America Conference in June of 2009 Gingrich asserted that America is "surrounded by paganism". His next big splash in September of 2009 was the documentary Rediscovering God in America II: Our Heritage. Here Gingrich again claims that Christianity and God are under attack in America.


These claims, along with his recent call for a Federal gay marriage amendment, are all consistent with the rhetoric and positions of Evangelical and Fundamentalist Christians. They have consistently campaigned for gay marriage bans in all fifty states and have proven successful in twenty-five. Evangelical efforts are not confined to just banning gay marriage. Candidates with their support in school boards across the country have fought for teaching a more Christian curriculum. Their most recent, and largest, success was in Texas. In May of this year the conservative faction on the school board succeeded in pushing for sweeping changes to the history curriculum. Some of these changes included the downplaying of the importance of Newtonian physics and Darwinian evolution, the whitewashing of the work of Founding Fathers like Thomas Jefferson and James Madison for religious liberty, and push the “fact” that America was founded as a Christian nation. In August the school board released a decree banning all textbooks that had pro-Muslim or anti-Christian content. Supporters of this measure claim it was necessary to protect Christianity.


Gingrich's claims of a Sharia takeover of the United States are rather ironic considering his own affiliations. If Gingrich and his allies in the Religious Right had their way Christianity, as it is according to them, would be the only religion allowed in the United States. They are not shy about their intentions; at their sites, conferences, and on the campaign trail they openly announce it to the world. Gingrich's campaign against Sharia law serves their purposes ideally. By rallying the public against Sharia law Gingrich provides a perfect cover while Christian fundamentalists quietly make their vision for America reality.



Also published at http://politics.pagannewswirecollective.com/2010/10/14/the-sharia-smokescreen/

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