Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), the first Muslim member of Congress, responds to Newt Gingrich's call for to test American Muslims for support of Sharia law. The former Speaker of the House said if they support Sharia, then they should be deported. ]
"There is no such thing as one Sharia," Rep. Ellison said on Friday's broadcast of MSNBC's Morning Joe. "Sharia varies from time to time and from place to place, there's no unified document."
"He does know better. That's the sad thing about Newt Gingrich. He's a very smart man, it's just calculating, pandering, and it's really sad," Ellison said.
Transcript, via MSNBC:
AYMAN MOHYELDIN, MSNBC FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and unfortunately, there is a negative misperception among Americans towards Muslims in general. All the data shows -- the overwhelming majority shows that Americans generally don't have a favorable view of Islam as a religion and have suspicions about it. But what he -- when Newt Gingrich, former congressman, was talking about issues of compatibility, Sharia law, with Western values, I think that poses a serious challenge, because it's very difficult for somebody like Newt Gingrich and others to define what Sharia law is. They're not experts on Sharia law. But aside from that, the practicality of it -- what does that mean? Do you think that somebody you're going to ask, do you believe in Sharia law, is going to be honest with you if they're really hell bent on trying to carry out an attack in the United States or if they have any difficult feelings?
So Congressman Ellison, I wanted to pick up on the point that you were talking about, not alienating the community. One of the issues that has been brought up systematically in France has been the issue of socioeconomic challenges faced by the descendants of migrants there and communities there in Brussels and Paris, the slums there. We don't have that problem here in the United States. What are the problems, what are the challenges that the Muslim-American community is facing here that need to be addressed to avoid that alienation further?
ELLISON: Well, first of all, civil rights, human rights. We have to treat people equally and fairly and we should only use law enforcement tools based on people's behavior, things that they actually do to gain them the interest of law enforcement. But otherwise, we should treat people the way we would expect under our first amendment, freedom of religion, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly. So for example, you have a lot of people who, I can assure you, have never done anything other than be loyal Americans, and yet they have tremendous struggle getting on airplanes. This is not helping us. We should also make sure that we are reaching out and making sure that there's opportunity and inclusion, and we should actively fight back in leadership, actively fight back on prejudice as George W. Bush did right after 9/11.
So the bottom line is this -- there is no such thing as one Sharia. Sharia varies from time to time and from place to place, there's no unified document. In fact, fasting of Ramadan is Sharia, by the way. So everybody who -- so that's the problem with what Newt Gingrich is saying. He's talking about violent attacks on innocent people. That is what we all must condemn. That is what is unacceptable, and we have to engage everyone to stop this kind of thing, and that means whether you're Muslim, Christian, Jew, whatever you are. We have to confront it together.
BRZEZINSKI: What frightens me about his comments is that I think he knows better.
ELLISON: He does know better. That's the sad thing about Newt Gingrich. He's a very smart man, it's just calculating, pandering, and it's really sad.