The blunt talk of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is appreciated even by some who disagree with what he's saying. The guy doesn't mince words.

The blunt talk of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is appreciated even by some who disagree with what he's saying. The guy doesn't mince words.


Last week the Republican governor brought his candor -- and his passion -- to one of the uglier issues bubbling at the fringe of our national conversation: The allegation that American Muslims have a plot to replace U.S. laws with Islamic laws known as Sharia.


Christie had nominated an attorney, Sohail Mohammed, for a state judgeship. Mohammed is an American citizen and a respected lawyer. Mohammed had been criticized for representing Muslims detained by the FBI after the attacks -- suspects who in the end were never charged with anything.


"Ignorance is behind the criticism of Sohail Mohammed," said Christie, a former U.S. Attorney for New Jersey, who had worked with Mohammed. "He is an extraordinary American who is an outstanding lawyer and played an integral role in the post-Sept. 11 period in building bridges between the Muslim-American community in this state and law enforcement."


Christie told reporters he was "disgusted, candidly, by some of the questions he was asked ... at the Senate judiciary committee." Mohammed's loyalty was questioned, and the questions about whether he would base his rulings on Sharia, by implication, challenged his fealty to the oaths he had taken to uphold the constitutions of New Jersey and the United States.


The bigotry behind Sharia-phobia should be familiar to anyone versed in the history of religion and politics. For many years, Roman Catholics were said to be ineligible for the White House because their religion required them to follow the orders of the pope.


Many of America's most distinguished judges are, or have been, Jewish. They are well-versed in Talmudic and rabbinic law, religious codes more ancient and just as specific to Judaism as Sharia is to Islam. Would the critics accuse the likes of Louis Brandeis, Felix Frankfurter or Ruth Bader Ginsburg of not knowing the difference between civic and religious law?


"This Sharia law business is crap," Christie told a press conference. "It's just crazy, and I'm tired of dealing with the crazies.


"It's just unnecessary to be accusing this guy of things just because of his religious background," he added: "I'm happy that he's willing to serve after all this baloney."


The crazies are not easily deterred. Two states have already passed measures prohibiting Sharia law, inviting challenge by those who take the First Amendment seriously. Republican tea party-types are still whipping up fear over this non-existent threat, hoping, as always, for political gain.


But at least it's good to see one Republican who's willing to call crazies crazy.


Rick Holmes is opinion editor of the MetroWest Daily News in Massachusetts. He can be reached at rholmes@wickedlocal.com.