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Editorial: Stand up to fear in wake of attack in Nice, France

The French National Assembly illuminated with the colrs of the French National flag in tribute for the victims of the deadly Bastille Day attack in Nice | MATTHIEU ALEXANDRE/AFP/Getty Images

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When a savage attack tears at the fabric of our shared humanity, we must stand tall and reach out to each other.

The answer is not, as Former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich seems to think, to isolate and demonize members of an entire religious community.

After the Bastille Day atrocity in France, Gingrich — who reportedly came very close to being selected as the Republican nominee for United States vice president — called for all U.S. Muslims to be tested to see if they believe in Sharia, or Islamic religious law based on the Quran. Those who do, he said, should be deported. He also suggested mosques should be monitored.

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On Friday, Gingrich said his statements had been misconstrued, and he issued a clarification, in which he conceded it would be impossible to deport U.S. Muslims. What he didn’t do was apologize and call on others who have shared similar views, such as Donald Trump, to do likewise.

These are not comforting times. We’ve been bombarded with one horror after another. Five police officers slain in Dallas earlier this month. Twenty killed in Bangladesh on July 1. Forty-nine gunned down in an Orlando, Florida, nightclub in June. Forty-five killed by terrorist at an Istanbul airport in June. One hundred one people killed in multiple Baghdad bombings in May. Fourteen slain in San Bernardino, California last December. One hundred thirty people killed in Paris last November.

That’s an appalling record of monstrosity in just eight months. But the answer is not to fall back on divisiveness and xenophobia.

On Thursday, in an interview with Sean Hannity on Fox News, Gingrich said, “Let me be as blunt and 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.”

He also said it should be a felony for any organization to host a website that favors ISIS. or for anyone to visit such a site.

In short, just tear up the Constitution. Just imply that the 3.3 million Muslims in the United States are not welcome. Just transform Facebook, Twitter and similar sites — along with legions of academics and activists — into felons. Just put a sock into the mouth of free speech. Cue a new Inquisition.

The world watched in horror Thursday after a Tunisian-born, 31-year-old delivery driver drove a rented 20-ton refrigerated truck into crowds along the Promenade des Anglais in Nice, France, where revelers celebrating Bastille Day had gathered to watch fireworks. More than 80 people were killed and dozens more were seriously injured. The attacker, Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhel, 31, also fired at police officers. The motivation for the attack was not clear.

Once again, the world is aghast at a devastating mass killing. The chilling brutality is nearly unfathomable. Once again, the world grieves for innocent victims and their loved ones.

The searing images of the carnage were horrifying, made all the more so by the terror attacks that preceded the one in Nice and the distressing likelihood that, somewhere in the world, more are all too likely to follow.

After an attack such as the one in France, authorities everywhere should review their security measures to find ways to heighten protections. Nations should cooperate more closely in tracking suspected terrorists. Vigilance is clearly called for.

But let us refuse to give into fear. Let us offer our hands to one another. Let us stand up for our ideals. Let us not turn against each other at the very time we need to close ranks.

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