Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Gingrich's Failed European Policies

In 2010, Newt Gingrich compared Muslims to Nazis -- political hate speech, according to his former House colleague Joe Scarborourgh -- and argued that U.S. citizens who are Muslim should be banned from mosque worship in the vicinity of the World Trade Center. More recently, he said he'd insist on a religious test for Muslim citizens who wanted to work in government. If elected, would he try to make his anti-First Amendment beliefs the law of the land? Then he'd be leading the U.S. down the road he claims Barack Obama is taking, toward a militantly secular Europe. Besides being unconstitutional, it would be stupid. As Jonathan Laurence writes, Gingrichism has slowed rather than accelerated Muslims' integration into European society:

Europeans should not be afraid to allow Muslim students to take classes on Islam in state-financed schools and universities. The recognition and accommodation of Islamic religious practices, from clothing to language to education, does not mean capitulation to fundamentalism. On the contrary, only by strengthening the democratic rights of Muslim citizens to form associations, join political parties and engage in other aspects of civic life can Europe integrate immigrants and give full meaning to the abstract promise of religious liberty.

The rise of right-wing, anti-immigrant parties has led several European countries to impose restrictions on Islamic dress, mosque-building and reunification of families through immigration law. These policies are counterproductive. Paradoxically, people for whom religion is otherwise not all that important become more attached to their faith’s clothing, symbols and traditions when they feel they are being singled out and denied basic rights.

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