Reprinted from NewsMax.com
Firing of Islam Expert Decried
Sunday, January 20, 2008 4:40 PM
By: Kenneth R. Timmerman
By: Kenneth R. Timmerman
The firing of the Pentagon’s only resident expert on Islamic law,
Maj. Stephen Coughlin, has begun to attract the attention of key
members of Congress and the White House, which has launched a
“fact-finding” mission into the case, Newsmax has learned.
Coughlin, of the U.S. Army Reserves, was on contract to the Joint
Chiefs of Staff to brief U.S. commanders en route to Iraq, as well as
officers at various staff colleges around the country, on the role of
Islamic teachings in the mind of America’s enemies.
His contract was terminated several weeks ago after an encounter with a
top aide to Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England, who dismissed his
findings and called him a “Christian zealot with a pen.”
The aide, Hesham Islam, is an Egyptian-born former U.S. Navy officer,
who joined England’s staff while he was secretary of the Navy in 2001
and moved with him when England was promoted to the Pentagon’s No. 2
Heshem Islam encouraged England to address the annual conference of the
Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) last fall, even though federal
prosecutors had named the group as an unindicted co-conspirator in a
major terrorism funding case last year.
Coughlin aroused the ire of Mr. Islam and others in September by
authoring an analysis of a Muslim Brotherhood document entered into
evidence in the Justice Department’s case against the Holy Land
In addition to naming ISNA and other “mainstream” Muslim organizations
as members of the Muslim Brotherhood’s network in the United States,
the Muslim Brotherhood document stated that its members “must
understand that their work in America is a kind of grand Jihad in
eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within… It is
a Muslim’s destiny to perform Jihad and work wherever he is and
wherever he lands until the final hour comes.”
Coughlin also took issue with an effort underway by intelligence
community analysts to declare al Qaeda terrorists and insurgents in
Iraq as “false Muslims,” whose version of jihad conflicted with “true”
Over the past two weeks, the White House has launched its own
investigation into the Coughlin affair, and has conducted at least one
interview with Coughlin himself, sources knowledgeable of the probe
However, Coughlin would appear to hold out little hope of a White House
As he pointed out in his 333-page thesis, "To Our Great Detriment:
Ignoring what Extremists say about Jihad," President Bush’s statements
downplaying the role of Islam in the terrorist attacks on America have
“exerted a chilling effect on those tasked to define the enemy’s
doctrine by effectively placing a policy bar” on examining the role of
Even Coughlin supporters such as Frank Gaffney Jr., president of the
Center for Security Policy, doubt that the Army reservist lawyer and
expert on Islamic law will get his contract reinstated by the Joint
But Gaffney has urged members of Congress in both parties and others
who care about the war on terror to make Coughlin “a cause
célèbre” over the next two months.
Rep. Sue Myrick, R-N.C., has taken that call seriously, and said last
week that she was examining the possibility of holding congressional
oversight hearings on Coughlin’s dismissal.
“We want to get to the bottom of this,” Myrick said. “This sounds like
another example of someone protecting national security and being told
to shut up,” she told Cybercast news service. “If we don’t get over
being politically correct, we won’t be here as a country.”
Myrick co-chairs the bi-partisan House Anti-Terrorism Caucus with Rep.
Jane Harmon, D-Calif., which she started last year out of frustration
that no one was educating the American people about the threat from
“President Bush does not talk to the American people about the
long-term threat of radical islamofascism infiltration in America,” she
Washington Times reporter Bill Gertz first revealed Coughlin’s firing,
as well as Hesham Islam’s confrontation with him, in his “Inside the
Ring” column in January.
Pentagon higher-ups then planted stories that Coughlin was fired
because he had had unauthorized contacts with reporters, a charge that
Coughlin writes in the introduction to his 333-page thesis that his
research into the legal underpinnings of jihadi doctrine was inspired
in part by a Dec. 1, 2005, speech by Gen. Peter Pace to the National
Defense University, when Pace was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
“To talk about how we are going to proceed, we need to understand the
nature of the enemy,… [which] is different than any we have faced in
the past,” Pace said.
“Remember Hitler. Remember he wrote 'Mein Kampf.' He said in writing
exactly what his plan was, and we collectively ignored that to our
great detriment,” Pace argued.
“Now, our enemies have said publicly on film, on the Internet, their
goal is to destroy our way of life. No equivocation on their part.
They’re not saying if you stay home, we will not come after you. They
are saying their goal is to rid the Middle East of all foreigners.
Then, overthrow all governments that are not friendly to them, which
means every single one of those governments,” Pace said.
Coughlin argues in his thesis that the U.S. intelligence community is
making a similar mistake today as it made in the 1930s, by not reading
what the enemy has said and written about their goals.
Officers who have listened to Coughlin’s presentation on the Islamic
underpinnings of the jihadist movement have come to his aid.
“The termination of Stephen Coughlin on the Joint Staff is an act of
intellectual cowardice,” Lt. Col. Joseph C. Myers, Army adviser to the
Air Command and Staff College, wrote on Jan. 5 public letter of support.
“Coughlin has briefed senior Marine Corps leaders and staff and has
presented his thesis in various military education venues,” Myers wrote.
“We have spent much intellectual capital revamping and analyzing our
own doctrine as it relates to counterinsurgency. It’s time we do our
homework on the threat,” he added.
Former Army intelligence officer Jerome Gordon, who has discussed
Coughlin’s thesis with former colleagues who have attended his
briefings, told Newsmax that Hesham Islam is not Coughlin’s only enemy.
“If there is a cabal that is opposing him, it’s in the military
intelligence community,” Gordon said. “Clearly, they have been cowed by
the significant entrée provided by the U.S. government to
leaders of Muslim Brotherhood fronts here in America.”
In a 153-slide PowerPoint presentation he uses to brief U.S. military
officers headed for the Middle East, Coughlin criticizes analysts such
as Harlan Ullman, a Washington Times columnist who boasts of his ties
to Condoleezza Rice.
“And unlike the Nazis, these extremists lack a central, unifying
ideology, come from many diverse movements and so far have not been
inclined to develop a political theory for seizing political power,”
Ullman wrote in a November 2007 column.
Coughlin called that statement a “non-sequitor,” and said that U.S.
military officers had a “duty” to base their assessment on an objective
analysis of the facts, not on assumptions or desires.
“If the Enemy in the War on Terror (WOT) states that he fights jihad in
furtherance of Islamic causes… and Islamic law on jihad exists and is
available in English… then Professionals with WOT responsibilities have
an affirmative, personal, professional duty to know the enemy that
includes ALL the knowable facts associated with the law of jihad,”
Dr. Walid Phares, director of the Future Terrorism Project at the
Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, believes that Coughlin’s
firing lies “at a very serious fault line” in U.S. defense strategies.
“I don't understand why is there so much intellectual commotion about
this matter in the West and in the US.,” Dr. Phares told Newsmax.
“Muslim scholars and historians agree that the theological texts have
also a military dimension. In Islamic studies there is no debate about
that. So why is there one in non-Muslim research and political circles,
particularly in America? Major Coughlin was studying the texts used by
the Jihadists to call for military action.”
While politicians might attempt to separate Islam from Jihad for their
own purposes, Phares added, “the study of the theological roots of
Jihad is something else, and that is an academic not a political issue.”
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