Newt Gingrich bobbed and weaved on Friday, first suggesting that Muslim U.S. citizens could be deported for practicing Sharia law, only to later backtrack and blame the media for distorting his words.
Gingrich, a Republican once considered a top vice presidential pick, now insists that Muslim Americans can have faith that the U.S. Constitution will still protect them. But that's little comfort for an embattled community that has noted the stunning frequency in which political leaders have said just the opposite.
The movement against Sharia law, an Islamic code of actions and beliefs woven into a legal framework, first spawned as a method to attack the institution of Islam but not individual people.
Now that tactic is being flipped. Prominent conservative leaders are using Sharia to justify targeting individual Muslims, even to the point of stripping American citizens of their constitutional rights.
"Use of anti-Muslim sentiment has been made mainstream and systematized in this election cycle," said Corey Saylor, director of anti-Islamophobia for the Council on American-Islamic Relations.