That's a hugely novel approach — and it has been covered as such. During a campaign in which soon-to-be-GOP nominee Donald Trump has called for banning Muslim immigration, Gingrich's comments are the latest example of a top Republican pushing a controversial idea that raises all kinds of constitutional and ethical questions.
Gingrich, though, doesn't appear to see what all the fuss is about.
It's not clear what specifically Gingrich takes issue with in the media's coverage — we'll have to watch his Facebook Live event, apparently — but he does say that it's an "overreaction."
Yet Gingrich's comments were pretty clear. He even tipped his hand that he was about to say something bold, beginning by saying, "Let me be as blunt and direct as I can."
Here's a transcript:
So let me start with where I'm coming from, and let me be as blunt and as direct as I can be: Western civilization is in a war. We should frankly test every person here who is of a Muslim background, and if they believe in Sharia, they should be deported. Sharia is incompatible with Western civilization. Modern Muslims who have given up Sharia, glad to have them as citizens. Perfectly happy to have them next door.
But we need to be fairly relentless about defining who our enemies are. Anybody who goes on a website favoring ISIS or al Qaeda or other terrorist groups, that should be a felony, and they should go to jail. Any organization which hosts such a website should be engaged in a felony. It should be closed down immediately.
And Gingrich didn't stop there. He went on to detail how the testing would be done:
Look, the first step is you have to ask them the questions. The second step is you have to monitor what they're doing on the internet. The third step is -- let me be very clear -- you have to monitor the mosques. I mean, if you're not prepared to monitor the mosques, this whole thing is a joke.
Where do you think the primary source of recruitment is? Where do you think the primary course of indoctrination is? You've got to look at the madrassas. If you're a school which is teaching Sharia, you want to expel it from the country.
It's hard to overstate just how massive this undertaking would be — particularly Gingrich's idea to "test every person here who is of a Muslim background." According to the Pew Research Center, there were about 3.3 million Muslims of all ages living in the United States in 2015. That's about 1 percent of the population — 1 out of every 100 people in this country — subject to a "test" to determine whether they believe in sharia law.
The comments aren't all that surprising from Gingrich. If there's one Republican who has been largely on the same page with Trump when it comes to monitoring American Muslims, it's him. Gingrich was one of the leaders of the effort criticizing the so-called Ground Zero mosque. Earlier in the 2016 campaign, he called for "every Muslim who would like to be accepted as an American to isolate and identify the terrorists."
But surveillance of mosques and calling on Muslims to monitor and report other Muslims have been proposed before. Calling for a test for all 3.3 million Muslims in the United States is a place not even Trump has gone. And it raises all kinds of questions about how feasible and appropriate it is.
Even Gov. Mike Pence, Trump's apparent vice-presidential pick (which Gingrich lobbied hard to become), labeled Trump's proposed Muslim immigration ban "offensive and unconstitutional."
Critics would argue that what Gingrich is proposing, much like Trump's Muslim ban, casts suspicion on all Muslims and singles them out for treatment solely based on their religion. Given the fact that even many Republicans balked at the idea of a Muslim ban, it's totally reasonable to raise questions about whether Gingrich's "Muslim test" passes muster both in a legal sense and as a reflection of what America is all about.
Gingrich is known for controversial ideas. This is certainly one of them. And to pretend it's not doesn't make sense.