The 2010 midterms have not happened yet, but the 2012 campaign is under way. For that we can thank Newt Gingrich. Not because Gingrich is a candidate, though he almost certainly is. And not because he can win, because that is by no means certain. We should thank Gingrich because he has crystallized the essence of our national-security challenge. Henceforth, there should be no place to hide for any candidate, including any incumbent. The question will be: Where do you stand on sharia?
The former speaker of the House gets the war on terror. For one thing, he refuses to call it the “war on terror,” which should be the entry-level requirement for any politician who wants to influence how we wage it. Gingrich grasps that there is an enemy here and that it is a mortal threat to freedom. He knows that if we are to remain a free people, it is an enemy we must defeat. That enemy is Islamism, and its operatives — whether they come as terrorists or stealth saboteurs — are the purveyors of sharia, Islam’s authoritarian legal and political system.
This being the Era of the Reset Button, Gingrich is going about the long-overdue business of resetting our understanding of the civilizational jihad that has been waged against the United States for some 31 years. It is the jihad begun when Islamists overran the American embassy in Tehran, heralding a revolutionary regime that remains the No. 1 U.S. security challenge in the Middle East, as Gingrich argued Thursday in a provocative speech at the American Enterprise Institute.
The single purpose of this jihad is the imposition of sharia. On that score, Gingrich made two points of surpassing importance. First, some Islamists employ mass-murder attacks while others prefer a gradual march through our institutions — our legal, political, academic,
and financial systems, as well as our broader culture; the goal of both, though, is the same. The stealth Islamists occasionally feign outrage at the terrorists, but their quarrel is over methodology and pace. Both camps covet the same outcome.
Second, that outcome is the death of freedom. In Islamist ideology, sharia is deemed to be the necessary precondition for Islamicizing a society — for Islam is not merely a religious doctrine, but a comprehensive socio-economic and political system. As the former speaker elaborated, sharia embodies principles and punishments that are abhorrent to Western values. Indeed, its foundational premise is anti-American, holding that we are not free people at liberty to govern ourselves irrespective of any theocratic code, that people are instead beholden to the Islamic state, which is divinely enjoined to impose Allah’s laws.
Sharia, moreover, is anti-equality. It subjugates women and brutally punishes transgressors, particularly homosexuals and apostates. While our law forbids cruel and unusual punishments, Gingrich observed that the brutality in sharia sanctions is not gratuitous, but intentional: It is meant to enforce Allah’s will by striking example.
On this last point, Gingrich offered a salient insight, one well worth internalizing in the Sun Tzu sense of knowing one’s enemy. Islamists, violent or not, have very good reasons for the wanting to destroy the West. Those reasons are not crazy or wanton — and they have nothing to do with Gitmo, Israel, cartoons, or any other excuse we conjure to explain the savagery away. Islamists devoutly believe, based on a well-founded interpretation of Islamic doctrine, that they have been commanded by Allah to kill, convert, or subdue all who do not adhere to sharia — because they regard Allah as their only master (“There is no God but Allah”). It is thus entirely rational (albeit frightening to us) that they accept the scriptural instruction that the very existence of those who resist sharia is offensive to Allah, and that a powerful example must be made of those resisters in order to induce the submission of all — “submission” being the meaning of Islam.