Friday Ephemera
Puny Humans (2)

Root Causes, Then and Now

Further to comments on how stating the obvious can scandalise PC sensitivities, this seems relevant. Andrew Bostom comments on the firing of jihad terrorism specialist, Stephen Coughlin, and notes the contrast with America’s first encounter with the jihad phenomenon, some two hundred years earlier.   

Bill Gertz, Washington Times national security columnist, reports that the Pentagon has fired Stephen Coughlin, its most knowledgeable specialist on Islamic Law and jihad terrorism. As Gertz observed aptly, the Pentagon thus ended the career of its most effective analyst attempting to prepare the military to wage ideological war against jihadism.

This past September, 2007, I lectured with Mr. Coughlin, a US Army Reserves Major, at The Naval War College, and witnessed his brilliant, tour de force presentation which elucidated the reliance of contemporary jihadism on Islamic Law. Coughlin demonstrated meticulously that Jihad fi Sabil Allah - “Jihad in the cause of Allah,” is the animating principle which underlies the threat of global jihad terrorism, and how this understanding should form the basis for rational, effective threat development assessment, and war planning. That Coughlin’s analyses would even be considered “controversial,” or worse still lead eventually to his firing… is pathognomonic of the intellectual and moral rot plaguing our efforts to combat global jihadism…

Coughlin’s reasoned conclusions simply update and complement, exquisitely, what serious scholars of jihad have long argued about revivalist movements throughout Islamic history. For example, forty years ago (in 1967), John Ralph Willis observed regarding the 19th century jihadist movements in West Africa, specifically, and such historical movements in general,

The jihad… is essentially an instrument of revival, employed for the purpose of extending the frontiers of Islam and leading the faithful back to [its] roots.

…In 1786, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, then serving as American ambassadors to France and Britain, respectively, met in London with the Tripolitan Ambassador to Britain, Sidi Haji Abdul Rahman Adja. These future American presidents were attempting to negotiate a peace treaty which would spare the United States the ravages of jihad piracy—murder, enslavement (with ransoming for redemption), and expropriation of valuable commercial assets - emanating from the Barbary States (modern Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya). During their discussions, they questioned Ambassador Adja as to the source of the unprovoked animus directed at the nascent United States republic. Jefferson and Adams, in their subsequent report to the Continental Congress, recorded the Tripolitan Ambassador’s justification:

… that it was founded on the Laws of their Prophet, that it was written in their [Qur’an], that all nations who should not have acknowledged their authority were sinners, that it was their right and duty to make war upon them wherever they could be found, and to make slaves of all they could take as prisoners, and that every [Muslim] who should be slain in battle was sure to go to Paradise.

Stephen Coughlin understands and enunciates what was stated openly to then Ambassadors John Adams and Thomas Jefferson - and what they apparently understood - by the Tripolitan Ambassador Adja. During his September 2007 presentation… Coughlin updated this timeless Islamic formulation into its modern context:

If the enemy in the War on Terror states that he fights jihad in furtherance of Islamic causes that include the imposition of Shari’a law and the re-establishment of the Caliphate; 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.

Stephen Coughlin has been fired for reminding his peers of this basic obligation.

The whole thing.

As former jihadist Tawfik Hamid has repeatedly pointed out,

Without confronting the ideological roots of radical Islam it will be impossible to combat it... It is vital to grasp that traditional and even mainstream Islamic teaching accepts and promotes violence… The grave predicament we face in the Islamic world is the virtual lack of approved, theologically rigorous interpretations of Islam that clearly challenge the abusive aspects of Sharia. Unlike Salafism, more liberal branches of Islam typically do not provide the essential theological base to nullify the cruel proclamations of their Salafist counterparts.

It is ironic and discouraging that many non-Muslim, Western intellectuals have become obstacles to reforming Islam… They find socioeconomic or political excuses for Islamist terrorism… If the problem is not one of religious beliefs, it leaves one to wonder why Christians who live among Muslims under identical circumstances refrain from contributing to wide-scale, systematic campaigns of terror... All of this makes the efforts of Muslim reformers more difficult. When Westerners make politically correct excuses for Islamism, it actually endangers the lives of reformers and in many cases has the effect of suppressing their voices.

And yet there are those, among them the incorrigible Seumas Milne, Madeleine Bunting and Karen Armstrong, whose lists of “root causes” include almost anything except the obvious, of which we must not speak.

Andrew Bostom is the author of The Legacy of Jihad and The Legacy of Islamic Anti-Semitism.

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