Islam Expert Not Forced Out, Congresswoman Says

Fred Lucas | Staff Writer | Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Islam Expert Not Forced Out, Congresswoman Says

(CNSNews.com) - A Pentagon anti-terrorism specialist was not ousted because his superiors thought he was too critical of Islam, a congresswoman who investigated the matter said Tuesday.

Stephen Coughlin, an expert on Islamic law for the Department of Defense, was not pushed out of his job because he offended Muslim employees of the Pentagon, as many had suspected, said Rep. Sue Myrick (R-N.C.), co-chair of the bipartisan House Anti-Terrorism Caucus.

Myrick and Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.) met with Coughlin when looking into the matter.

"Major Coughlin told me that he has had a great working relationship with the Joint Staff and that he did not believe there was a conspiracy to remove him from the position," Myrick said in a written statement.

"In fact, he was already planning to leave the Joint Staff at the end of the contract," she said. "Lest the rumors persist, Major Coughlin will be associated with another office program within the Office of the Secretary of Defense where he will continue to spread the message."

Much of the controversy surrounding Coughlin - an attorney, former Army intelligence officer, and major in the Army Reserves - emerged from his 333-page thesis, "To Our Great Detriment: Ignoring What Extremists Say About Jihad."

The report was accepted last year by the National Defense Intelligence College. The report describes an Islamic culture that teaches violence from an early age.

The thesis says, for instance, "So how does one explain the prevailing assumption that Islam does not stand for such violence undertaken in its name with the fact that its laws and education materials validate the very acts undertaken by 'extremists' in Iraq?"

It continues: "The first 'radicalizing' lessons Saudi youth receive that motivates them to travel to Iraq and fight coalition forces does not come from 'extremist' groups like al Qaeda, but rather is taught as part of Saudi Arabia's standard secondary school curriculum."

Coughlin - who supporters say had one of the most important jobs in analyzing how jihadists think - crossed Hasham Islam, an aide to Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England, according The Washington Times.

The paper reported that the aide told Coughlin to "soften his view" on radical Islam. When Coughlin refused, Hasham Islam called him a Christian zealot "with a pen," according to the report.

But that isn't the conclusion Myrich reached after her inquiry.

"Infiltration in America is a very serious and important issue," Myrick said. "We cannot take it lightly and we must get our facts correct. That is why I did not accept opinions and rumors as truth."

Though Myrick doesn't believe there was political chicanery involved, she does think the Pentagon should have paid more attention to Coughlin's thesis.

"He states we have not listened to our enemies - Osama Bin Laden and his ilk - that they are acting in accordance with Islam," she said. "Our military has not identified and analyzed our enemy's stated doctrine - that they are acting in accordance with Islamic law."

She added that the government must be aware of radical jihadists trying to infiltrate American organizations.

"I know that some people will refuse to admit there is a subversive movement going on here, but let me remind you that we have underestimated the will and capability of our enemy for more than 30 years," Myrick said. "They are patient and determined to achieve their radical agenda."

Coughlin couldn't be reached for comment on this story, but two of his associates said they spoke to him this weekend.

Coughlin will be working for Special Operations Command, Jerome Gordon, a former Army intelligence officer who knows Coughlin, told Cybercast News Service. He said both Myrick and Hoekstra interviewed Coughlin last week.

Andrew Bostom, an author and lecturer on Islam, who also said he spoke to Coughlin over the weekend, thinks Congress did investigate the matter as thoroughly as possible.

"You can't deny that there was a current of dissatisfaction in the Pentagon with what he (Coughlin) was doing," Bostom told Cybercast News Service. "I find this a puzzling statement."

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