Over at The Weekly Standard, Mike Goldfarb castigates President Obama for obsessing about root causes without considering the poisonous influence of a radical Islamist ideology. The problem, unfortunately, is not limited to the Obama administration but is rather broader: Not all terrorism is motivated by religion, but much of it is. The problem is that the issue of religious motivation for terrorism has become a forbidden subject in government policy analysis. Remember the Pentagon’s sacking of Stephen Coughlin toward the tail end of the Bush administration? From the Washington Times:
Stephen Coughlin, the Pentagon specialist on Islamic law and Islamist extremism, has been fired from his position on the military’s Joint Staff. The action followed a report in this space last week revealing opposition to his work for the military by pro-Muslim officials within the office of Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England.
Sometimes political correctness kills. Since I’ve left the Pentagon, I have sat through about 100 lectures on Islam to U.S. military audiences, many at Fort Hood. Too often, government officials limit discussion of Islam to “true Islam” defined by whatever theological trends promote tolerance, moderation, and compassion. For policy, law-enforcement, and military purposes, it would be wise to leave the debate about what “true Islam” is to the academic community and instead focus on religion and religious ideology in terms of what any religion’s practitioners believe it to be. Rather than, for example, explain to troops in tedious lectures that Islam forbids suicide, it might provide more insight and understanding if specialists would instruct policy and military practitioners what exegesis extremists use to justify suicide terrorism or other manifestations of extremism.
For what it’s worth, on the rare occassions when I lecture on the topic of how extremists use Islam to justify terrorism (including sometimes at Ft. Hood), I often draw from these Middle East Quarterly articles: