Gingrich’s Stealth Islamophobia and the Christian Double Standard

Neither Herman Cain nor Newt Gingrich will win the Republican primary, but the manner in which both jumped on the anti-Muslim bandwagon in Monday’s New Hampshire debate is instructive. Cain waffled on what he had said, what he hadn’t said, and what he meant.

But Gingrich’s more troubling comments arose from the systematic, orchestrated effort to foster widespread suspicion and hatred toward Muslims that Sarah has called “a cottage industry.”

Interrupting to answer a question he hadn’t been asked, Gingrich said:

I just want to comment for a second. The Pakistani who emigrated to the U.S. became a citizen, built a car bomb which luckily failed to go off in Times Square was asked by the federal judge, how could he have done that when he signed—when he swore an oath to the United States. And he looked at the judge and said, “You’re my enemy. I lied.” Now, I just want to go out on a limb here. I’m in favor of saying to people, if you’re not prepared to be loyal to the United States, you will not serve in my administration, period.

The story actually made no sense, since there’s no way to know who’s prepared to be loyal if, as in Gingrich’s own story, the person lies. But Gingrich wasn’t trying to argue for a position. While most of us just heard a story about someone lying, Gingrich was actually invoking one of the most effective tropes promoting Islamophobia: the concept of taqiyya.

For most Muslims, taqiyya is the withholding of information about one’s faith in a dangerous situation; when Muslims are being persecuted it is permissible to deny being a Muslim. Like some Jews hid their identity as Jews during the Inquisition.

However, in the hands of Islamophobes, taqiyya becomes the legitimation of lying to any non-Muslim at any time. It makes Islamophobia unchallengeable, as inconvenient evidence can be dismissed as lies and idea that not all Muslims are terrorists becomes impossible to maintain because “they all lie.”

Brigitte Gabriel is leading promoter of Islamophobia and founder of ACT for America. A Lebanese-born immigrant, she uses her background as a claim on insider authority about Islam—but she is actually a Lebanese Christian, not a Muslim. And you can see her use of this strategy here:

Earlier this year, I wrote about another promoter of irrational fear of Muslims, William Federer, noting how his skewed version of Islam was matched by an equally skewed (though positively so) version of Christianity. This is the same tactic he uses in regards to taqiyya. While the overwhelming majority of Christians believe truth-telling to be a moral imperative, there are examples (which he ignores) that seem exactly parallel to those for which Muslims are being criticized.

First, with regard to how one should engage the non-Christian world, Christian Reconstructionists are fond of saying “we should be wise as serpents.” It’s from Matthew 10:16 (though they often leave off the next clause which says “and harmless as doves”). Being deceptive (as in the serpent in the garden of Eden and even in Gethsemane) is acceptable when dealing with the “enemies of God.”

Reconstrucionists also like the story of Rahab who betrayed her own people by lying to protect the Israelite spies working to take over Jericho (Joshua 2 1-7). Gary North claims that she was due the protection of God’s people because by these lies she demonstrated herself to be under the Covenant. Lest other Christians dismiss this as the ranting of extremists whose justification comes solely from the Old Testament, the story of Rahab’s valor is repeated in the New Testament (Hebrews 11:31); meaning it’s not only theocratic dominionists who have religious justification for lying under some circumstances.

You can watch an interview with William Federer in which he explains why there is no moderate Islam, that Muslims want to spread their faith all over the world and that they want to control women here. As you watch, see if you can change out the word “Islam” for “Christianity”—recognizing that we mean only some Christians… but then, that’s kind of the point.