Pentagon Removes Incompetent Ideologue on Muslim Affairs

On January 4, Washington Times reporter Bill Gertz reported that Stephen Coughlin, a so-called “specialist on Islamic law and Islamist extremism” had been “fired” from his job at the Department of Defense (DoD). Supposedly, the reason he was terminated from his position was because he was accused of being a “Christian zealot with a pen” by Hashem Islam, a key aide to Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England.

As a result, neo-con and Islamophobic blogs like “Jihad Watch” and media outlets like the Washington Times have been howling over Coughlin’s dismissal as an “act of intellectual cowardice” and claiming the DoD has been “infiltrated”. Ah yes, the bigotry-masquerading -as-anti-politically-correct canard.

Well is it really PC issues and Christian ideological extremism that have to do with Coughlin’s “firing?” First, it should be noted that Coughlin isn’t any direct employee of the DoD, rather he is a contractor. You don’t “fire” contractors, you terminate their contract. But wait! In this case there was no termination, the agreement with Deputy SecDef England simply was not renewed. Do government contractors have a right to have their contracts renewed? It seems that neoconservatism is less conservatism than government entitlements for Islamophobes.

Second, it’s important to understand who Coughlin is. According to the most detailed publicly available biography, his academic background is in History, Russian studies and Strategic Intelligence. He also has a JD from the William Mitchell School of Law. This has one private intelligence analyst, Jeffery Carr of the IntelFusion Center, to speculate Coughlin was let go not only because his understanding of Islam and Islamic Law was very poor, but also due to his lack of academic credentials. Carr opines:

I haven’t found any new information on the conflict, however I’d like to offer the possibility that Coughlin was fired for reasons other than being a “Christian zealot with a pen.” Perhaps someone recognized that he wasn’t qualified to be the Pentagon’s sole expert on Islamic law. Why would I say that? Let’s see:
• He doesn’t have a degree in that subject.
• He doesn’t speak Arabic, or any Middle Eastern language.
• His thesis on the subject doesn’t provide adequate coverage of scholarly sources.

Larry Johnson, a former CIA and State Department official goes further and says:

Coughlin and others of his ilk have been pushing the hysteria that there is only one Islam and all of Islam is intent on conquering the West. (Yes there are some Muslims who believe this, but Islam is not a monolith). Pandering to peoples’ fears is an effective propaganda ploy but it does little to help our soldiers understand the cultural roots and political/religious dynamics they find in the field. You would expect that in a war inside an Arab nation, that is predominantly Muslim, the Pentagon would hire renowned experts on the topics of Islam. Nope. We have Stephen Coughlin. We have a situation in which folks with no real expertise or command of Arabic are making fanciful claims about a religion and cultures they do not know intimately.

It appears that factual reliability, not political correctness is the real reason Coughlin will not be working within the Pentagon for much longer.

Alejandro J. Beutel

Minaret of Freedom Institute


Alejandro Beutel is program assistant for the Minaret of Freedom Institute with expertise in religious freedom, democratization and security issues.






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