In Islamic Law, “Stealth Jihad, Gingrich Sees a Mortal Threat to U.S.

WASHINGTON — Long before he announced his presidential run this year, Newt Gingrich had become the most prominent American politician to embrace an alarming premise: that Shariah, or Islamic law, poses a threat to the United States as grave as or graver than terrorism.

“I believe Shariah is a mortal threat to the survival of freedom in the United States and in the world as we know it,” Mr. Gingrich said in a speech to the American Enterprise Institute in Washington in July 2010 devoted to what he suggested were the hidden dangers of Islamic radicalism. “I think it’s that straightforward and that real.”

Mr. Gingrich was articulating a much-disputed thesis in vogue with some conservative thinkers but roundly rejected by many American Muslims, scholars of Islam and counterterrorism officials. The anti-Shariah theorists say that just as communism posed an ideological and moral threat to America separate from the menace of Soviet missiles, so today radical Islamists are working to impose Shariah in a “stealth jihad” that is no less dangerous than the violent jihad of Al Qaeda.

The problem with Gingrich’s simplistic attack on sharia

The epochs of Newt Gingrich’s public life are defined by the books that have revolutionized him — generally of the type that sell well at airports. There is Isaac Asimov’s “Foundation” trilogy, Alvin Toffler’s “The Third Wave,” Napoleon Hill’s “Think and Grow Rich,” Stephen Covey’s “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” and various foundational texts of Total Quality Management and Lean Six Sigma.

These idea crushes are mostly harmless. Sometimes they are not. Gingrich has recently been captured by the theory, developed in books such as Andrew C. McCarthy’s “The Grand Jihad,” that sharia law is a mortal threat to the survival of freedom in the United States and the world as we know it.

Does this seem an exaggerated description of Gingrich’s view? Here is the former speaker: “Sharia is a mortal threat to the survival of freedom in the United States and the world as we know it.” Gingrich often precludes the possibility of exaggeration.

The Republican front-runner set out his argument about Islamic law in a speech last year to the American Enterprise Institute. The United States’ problem, Gingrich argued, is not primarily terrorism; it is sharia — “the heart of the enemy movement from which the terrorists spring forth.” Sharia law, in his view, is inherently brutal — defined by oppression, stonings and beheadings. Its triumph is pursued not only by violent jihadists but by stealthy ones attending the mosque down the street. “The victory of sharia,” he concludes, “would clearly mean the end of the government Lincoln was describing.”