Politics

An Open Letter to Newt Gingrich

On how Sharia makes Muslims in the U.S. better Americans

Umema Aimen went to college in the United States and is challenging Newt Gingrich on his call for testing Muslims in the U.S. to see if they believe in Sharia law. 

Mr. Gingrich,  

You’ve said on Facebook that we need to have an honest discussion. I agree, so here’s what I have to say: I am a 25-year-old Pakistani citizen who spent five years studying in America, four in college and one at a Muslim seminary. I recently moved back to Pakistan and was excitedly planning my honeymoon trip to America until I read your remarks.  

While addressing the horrendous terror attack in France, you called for stricter measures profiling Muslims. Not for terrorists or suspected terrorists but for every single Muslim who lives in America or wishes to do so.  

When you later explained yourself, you went from talking about “every Muslim” to not even saying the word ‘Muslim’ until you absolutely had to. Not all Muslims are bad, you said; we just have to sniff out the bad eggs with a harmless test, and investigate every single Muslim in the country for certain un-American “characteristics” to find wannabe terrorists so that the rest of us can live in peace.  

To me, this “harmless” plan sounds dangerous, and it is exactly this sort of proposition that has made every Muslim in America a suspect, and bigotry and Islamophobia worse than right after 9/11. You may say loyal Muslims have nothing to fear but they have everything to fear.  

In November, armed protesters in Irving, Texas, published the names and addresses of Muslim residents and those deemed “Muslim sympathizers” for exactly the purpose you stated.  

Women who wear the hijab are increasingly being attacked, threatened, spit on, shoved, egged, punched and yelled at. We have our headscarves ripped off, are questioned by law enforcement and are fired from jobs for being “constitutionally covered” — as one Muslim writer put it.  

And it doesn’t end there. Anyone who may appear Muslim is in danger. A number of attacks on Sikh men mistaken for Muslims makes that evident.  

Your proposed methodology is to look for those who believe in Sharia. The good news is that there’s no need to start interrogation; just search for #IbelieveinShariah. The bad news is that it’s all of us; we believe Sharia is divine law that motivates us to live a life of truth, justice, morality, courage and kindness. It prevents us from committing oppression, racism and injustice. In fact, it teaches Muslims how to be American.  

According to Sharia, Muslims in America have to respect, follow and be loyal to the U.S. Constitution. Thus, most Americans — Muslim or not — are Sharia-compliant.  

You said if the Orlando shooter Omar Mateen and other Muslim terrorists had been vetted more rigorously, the attacks could have been prevented. But Mateen’s life was the opposite of Sharia-compliant — he drank heavily, frequented nightclubs, beat his wife, did not go to the mosque and had no direct link with any terrorist organization.  

President Obama said Mateen was “self-radicalized” — and the same is being said of the savage who killed innocents in Nice.  

Your plan also includes monitoring the mosques and madrassas. But Muslim institutions and seminaries in America are not breeding grounds for terrorism. I should know because I studied at one in Texas, and can say that 10 months there Americanized me more than four years at a private liberal arts college.  

During college, I was mostly ensconced in a bubble with other international students, but my real relationship with Americans developed at the seminary, where I finally came to understand the depth of America’s love for sports, coffee and Dunkin' Donuts.  

On a more serious note, I learned about Islam’s compatibility with American values and way of life. A study of traditional Islamic sciences and the life of Prophet Muhammad taught us to refute extremists’ claims on theological and spiritual grounds. We learned about the centuries-old Muslim history and legacy in America. And it wasn’t all just an academic exercise.  

Experts were invited to train us on important issues like racism, patriarchy and mental illness. We had frank and nuanced conversations about gun violence, political oppression and bigotry. Our assignments included volunteering at soup kitchens and giving lectures at mosques.  

In my opinion, mosques and American Muslim leaders have actually been the most effective at educating and de-radicalizing Muslims. They have openly and unequivocally condemned all acts of terrorism even in the face of death threats by ISIS.  

Countering radicalization has been the main theme of most Muslim conventions and conferences in America. In fact, it was a Muslim who first reported Omar Mateen to the FBI.  

Every time an act of terror is committed, American Muslim communities face the most backlash. So it’s not surprising that a mosque in Rhode Island was vandalized in response to the Nice tragedy even though many Muslims were also killed there.  

You and a few other American politicians have been contending that Western civilization is under attack, yet most of the victims of ISIS and similar terrorist groups are Muslims in Muslim countries. In fact, the second holiest and most sacred mosque on the planet was attacked by ISIS two weeks ago.  

Speaking of Western civilization, did you know that England’s Queen Elizabeth is a descendant of Prophet Muhammad? So clearly, she is a candidate for religious profiling, right?  

In fact, you yourself might also need a loyalty test, based on your blatant disregard for the First Amendment.  

Yet, you did say that if we had been actively monitoring the Orlando killer, we would have known when he went to buy a gun, and that I have to agree with; guns are where we should start.  

You also spoke about the presumption of innocence, and if everyone thought that way, we wouldn’t have needed a Black Lives Matter campaign in America.  

You asked a very important question, too: How do we protect people and guarantee their liberties? These are exactly the questions Americans need to ask.  

While you do that, I’ll look into alternative honeymoon spots.  

Umema Aimen is a graduate of Mount Holyoke College.

Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.