Santorum, GOP continue anti-sharia campaign

The GOP continued its campaign against sharia law last week, with potential 2012 presidential candidate Rick Santorum telling a group … Continued

The GOP continued its campaign against sharia law last week, with potential 2012 presidential candidate Rick Santorum telling a group in New Hampshire that the Islamic code of conduct is “evil.” Politico’s Kendra Marr said that Santorum’s anti-sharia rhetoric indicated that the former Pennsylvania senator was “continu(ing) to establish himself as the candidate most-aligned with the Republican Party’s conservative base.”

Many of Santorum’s likely contenders for the GOP presidential nomination have made similar statements about Islam.

Charlie Neibergall

AP

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum (R), a strong social conservative, would likely be regarded as a heavyweight if he hadn’t lost his seat by 18 points in 2006. Still, Santorum has been steadily working to show that he’s a serious candidate.

After Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee recently called Islam the “antithesis of the gospel of Christ” during an interview on Fox & Friends, On Faith asked our panelists about debating Islam on the campaign trail. Conservative commentator Cal Thomas reasoned that “Islamism affects American politics,” thus it should be discussed during political debate; but Pastor Joel Hunter, a spiritual advisor to President Obama, said that campaigning against Islam is about power, not spirituality and “to stereotype any faith by one scripture reference or fundamentalist sect is unfair and uninformed.” For more takes on Islam’s rhetorical role in political debates, go here.

Nearly 10 years after the terrorist attack that brought radical Islam to the fore of American consciousness, a fierce debate over the faith’s compatibility with American values has emerged as a major political issue, of which King’s hearings on Islam are only the latest example.

Sharia, the Islamic code that guides the behavior of Muslims, has become a particularly charged term in American culture and politics. During last summer’s debate about the Islamic center planned near Ground Zero, Post religion reporter Michelle Boorstein wrote
For critics of Islam,’sharia’ becomes shorthand for extremism
, contending that “ the word has become akin to a slur in some camps.”

Anti-Sharia laws have recently been proposed in Tennessee and Alabama , and Oklahoma voters passed a resolution in November that prohibits the use of sharia law when making rulings. When critics of sharia talk about the body of laws, they are largely referring to some of the worst offenses against human rights enacted in the name of Islam. For one example on how sharia entered American political consciousness, here’s Newt Gingrich’s July 2010 interpretation of the vast and complex legal code. At the September 2010 Values Voters Summit, Gingrich called for a federal ban on sharia law.

A 2007 Pew survey on American Muslims found that the group is “middle class and mostly mainstream;” and Santorum himself claimed in New Hampshire that the “vast majority” of Muslims don’t want to live under a radical interpretation of their faith.

What explains the sudden conservative focus on Islam?

Is Politico’s Marr correct that Santorum’s anti-Sharia sentiment means he’s the “most-aligned with the Republican Party’s conservative base?”

About

Elizabeth Tenety Elizabeth Tenety is the former editor of On Faith, where she produced "Divine Impulses," On Faith’s video interview series. She studied Theology and Government at Georgetown University and received her master’s degree from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. A New York native, Elizabeth grew up in the home of Catholic news junkies where, somewhere in between watching the nightly news and participating in parish life, she learned to ponder both the superficial and the sacred.
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