ThinkProgress filed this report from the GOP Presidential debate in Greenville, SC.
Opposition to the supposed threat of Sharia law is quickly becoming one of the top litmus tests for Republican presidential hopefuls. As Politico’s Juana Summers noted, “Potential candidates have almost unilaterally assailed the Islamic code, making it as much a staple of the campaign stump speech as economic reform, job creation and rising gas prices.” Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) referenced Sharia in her reaction to bin Laden’s death, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum called it an “existential threat to America,” and former Godfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain even told ThinkProgress that he “will not” appoint a Muslim in his administration because of the phantom threat of Sharia.
ThinkProgress spoke with one of the presidential aspirants, former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, in South Carolina over the weekend to discuss his thoughts on Sharia law. Unlike nearly every other GOP presidential contender, Johnson saw no reason to spend time fighting a non-existent threat. When ThinkProgress reporter Lee Fang asked Johnson whether it was appropriate to pass a ban on Sharia law, as South Carolina and many other states are proposing, the former New Mexico Governor argued, “Is there a Sharia problem that needs to be banned? I’ve never seen it personally. I haven’t seen it”:
FANG: Here in South Carolina the state legislature is debating a bill on banning Sharia law used in American courts. It’s not just here in South Carolina, it’s in states all over the country, Florida, Missouri, Arizona. What’s your position on that? Do you think this is an appropriate measure that should be passed?
JOHNSON: I am not familiar with the legislation. South Carolina wants to ban Sharia law? [...]
FANG: The question is, is there a Sharia problem that needs to be banned?
JOHNSON: Is there a Sharia problem that needs to be banned? I’ve never seen it personally. I haven’t seen it. I haven’t seen it.
FANG: So you don’t think it should be banned then?
JOHNSON: Without looking at what the legislation is, I have never seen it to be a problem anywhere.
Still, Johnson is largely a solitary voice of reason in the right’s debate over Sharia law. As ThinkProgress has reported over the past few months, GOP presidential contenders and other influential figures on the right have made the nonexistent threat of Sharia law a centerpiece of their campaign. The godfather of the anti-Sharia movement, Frank Gaffney, told ThinkProgress in January that the Muslim Brotherhood has “infiltrated” the United States government. Last month, Gaffney accused Gen. David Petraeus of “submission” to Sharia law. Gaffney’s fearmongering has prompted even frontrunner candidates like Tim Pawlenty and Newt Gingrich to make countering the supposed Sharia threat an integral part of their campaigns.
Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), who is also considering a bid for the presidency, has spoken out against anti-Muslim hysteria as well. In a recent Fox News interview, Paul scolded host Sean Hannity for “closing the door on what makes America great” by propagating the mythical threat of Sharia.