WASHINGTON — Newt Gingrich’s proposal to deport American Muslims who practice Sharia law is both unconstitutional and dangerous, according to the Religious Freedom Center of the Newseum Institute, and Interfaith Alliance. The two organizations jointly produced the resource “What is the Truth about American Muslims?” which explains Sharia in broad terms and dispels myths around it.

“This sweeping and inaccurate attack on American Muslims is an assault on religious freedom,” said Dr. Charles C. Haynes, founding director of the Religious Freedom Center. “Demonizing Islam fuels hostility and hate — and only serves the cause of extremists who commit violence in the name of religion.”

In the hours after the attacks in Nice, France, a Muslim Community Center in Rhode Island was vandalized. Once again, many American Muslims are fearful that they will be the targets of a backlash in the coming days.

“Unfortunately, there are some who are all too eager to use this moment to demonize the Muslim community,” said Rabbi Jack Moline, president of Interfaith Alliance. “Newt Gingrich’s comments are an affront to everything we stand for as Americans. I question whether anyone who makes such a proposal has even a basic understanding of the First Amendment.”

As explained in “What is the Truth about American Muslims?” Sharia stands for Islamic or sacred law. Sharia is overwhelmingly concerned with personal religious observances such as prayer and fasting. Just as many observant Jews follow Halakha, many observant Muslims follow some aspect of Sharia. The full document, which was endorsed by more than 20 organizations committed to protecting religious freedom, may be downloaded at: http://bit.ly/sharia-rfc).

For centuries, Muslim scholars have given a broad definition of Sharia, reflecting the diversity of interpretations on how Muslims have attempted to best understand and practice their faith. The general definition of Sharia as understood by most American Muslims is as follows:

  • Sharia represents how practicing Muslims can best lead their daily lives in accordance with God’s divine guidance
  • It may be generally defined as the Islamic law revealed by God to the Prophet Muhammad
  • That divine law was then interpreted by Muslim scholars over the centuries
  • Among the primary aims of the Sharia are the achievement of justice, fairness and mercy

“What is the Truth about American Muslims?” explains the sources of Sharia law and the diverse and dynamic interpretations and applications of Sharia law. The vast majority of American Muslims see no conflict between their religious obligations and values and the U.S. legal system.

“To single out religious practices and beliefs of any religion for government regulation is not only unlawful, it is un-American. The U.S. Constitution guarantees religious freedom for people of all religions and none,” said Haynes.

“These are dangerous times that call for real leadership and a sophisticated understanding of the complex world we live in. By making these statements, Newt Gingrich has proven himself to be incapable of either,” added Moline.

A full list of organizations that endorsed “What is the Truth about American Muslims?” includes:

  • African American Ministers Leadership Council
  • Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
  • Foundation for Ethnic Understanding
  • Friends Committee on National Legislation
  • Institute for Social Policy and Understanding
  • Islamic Networks Group
  • Islamic Society of North America
  • Muslim Public Affairs Council
  • National Religious Campaign Against Torture
  • New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good
  • People For the American Way Foundation
  • Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
  • Queens Federation of Churches
  • Rabbis for Human Rights-North America
  • Reconstructionist Rabbinical College
  • Secular Coalition for America
  • Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund
  • Sikh Coalition
  • Sojourners
  • Southern Poverty Law Center
  • Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations
  • United Church of Christ United Methodist Church
  • General Board of Church and Society

About the Religious Freedom Center

The Religious Freedom Center of the Newseum Institute is a nonpartisan national initiative focused on educating the American public about the religious liberty principles of the First Amendment. We envision a world committed to religious freedom as an inalienable right for all people. In carrying out this vision, our mission is to educate the public about the history, meaning and significance of religious freedom and to promote dialogue and understanding among people of all religions and none.

Interfaith Alliance celebrates religious freedom by championing individual rights, promoting policies that protect both religion and democracy, and uniting diverse voices to challenge extremism. Founded in 1994, Interfaith Alliance brings together members from 75 faith traditions as well as those without a faith tradition to protect faith and freedom. For more information visit interfaithalliance.org.