Thursday, May 12, 2011

Juana Summers: GOP litmus test -- Sharia opposition

GOP litmus test: Sharia opposition
by Juana Summers

As potential GOP candidates jockey to distinguish themselves heading into primary season, there seems to be at least one issue on which they widely agree: Sharia law is a continuing threat to the United States.

Invoking Sharia and casting it as a growing danger at odds with American principles has become a rallying cry for conservatives. It’s also quickly becoming an unlikely pet issue among 2012 presidential contenders: Potential candidates have almost unilaterally assailed the Islamic code, making it as much a staple of the campaign stump speech as economic reform, job creation and rising gas prices.

Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann responded to Osama bin Laden’s death not just by praising the U.S. military. She used the news to remind her followers about a threat she considers alive and well.

“A time to express our deepest gratitude to the U.S. military for taking out Osama bin Laden,” Bachmann tweeted. Expanding on her tweet on Facebook, she wrote, “Osama bin Laden dead! May this be the beginning of the end of Sharia-compliant terrorism.”

While the Al Qaeda leader’s death provides a fresh opportunity to target the Islamic code, Republican presidential candidates have had Sharia in their cross hairs for months.

“Creeping Sharia is a huge issue here in the United States,” former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum told POLITICO.

Sharia represents an “existential threat to America,” Santorum said during a foreign policy speech several weeks ago. “The enemy is motivated by an interpretation of Islam, Sharia, that is antithetical to American civilization.”

The fervor with which the GOP has embraced the alleged Sharia threat has been matched by protests and condemnations from Democrats and Muslim advocacy groups equating the Republicans’ statements with an attack on the Muslim faith.

“Even immediately after Sept. 11, we didn’t see this kind of hatred mainstream in our society,” said Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations. “There seems to be a coordinated effort to both marginalize American Muslims and demonize Islam.”

Critics see the GOP’s preoccupation with Sharia law as a solution without a problem. Bill sponsors interviewed by POLITICO could offer no examples of cases from their home states, instead pointing to a 2010 New Jersey case that used Sharia as a defense, though that decision was reversed by a higher court.

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