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.”