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The Fascinating Debate in and About Radical Islam
In the January 6 issue of the New York Times Book Review, Tariq Ramadan has an essay that argues, in its essence, that non-believers cannot really read or understand the Koran-because it speaks exclusively to believers.

One's heart, Ramadan argues, is one's guide for understanding the Koran, and the heart can only lead you once "the heart has made the message of Islam its own."

So, in essence, an outsider (infidel) cannot understand the text, therefore an outsider really cannot have a valid opinion about the text because an outsider does not understand what he or she is talking about, because it is not on a rational plane.

This is an argument that, of course, means looking at the historial record of Islam, the more explicit verses on killing Jews and infidels, and waging _jihad_, as well as the true meaning of _jihad_, cannot be debated by infidels.

Islamists themselves will define the texts and their meaning for us, on their terms exclusively. We need not bother even trying.

That is akin to saying that, if one is not a born again Christian one should not attempt biblical scholarship, and perhaps some argue that. In reality, the historical texts can be read, examined, looked at for internal consistencies and inconsistencies, debated and dissected.

That is the rational response to the endeavor to understand history. One can have a different interpretation of texts one believes to be divine, but that does not negate the validity of scholarship.

This leads directly to the issue raised by the decision of the Joint Chiefs to not allow attorney and US Army intelligence reserve Major Stephen Coughlin to continue with his work on Islamic law in the Pentagon.

The main problem for the Islamists such as Hasham Islam, and their fellow travelers, such as ISNA, MPAC, Fiqh Council and AMCE, inside and around the Pentagon who worked to get rid of him, is that Coughlin, as a non-Muslim, and a legal scholar, with decade of experience in legal texts working as well as in military intelligence, often knew the Islamic texts better than the Islamists themselves. Coughlin's MA thesis is in Islamic law.

How embarrassing to have a non-believer who is an expert on Sharia law, and the Islamic texts, be able to debate intelligently and articulately, and use the texts themselves to inform their analysis and argument.

The answer, of course, is to say he cannot understand because he is not a Muslim. This is a classic logical fallacy. Nevertheless, this argument seems to have prevailed, at least for the moment, in Coughlin's case. As Bill Gertz has reported, there seems to be some rallying to his defense and against the indefensible action of silencing the only true scholar in these issues that the Pentagon has.

Part of the confusion over how this happens is dealt with in an essay review in the same New York Times review, by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, in her review of Leo Harris' new book, "The Suicide of Reason."

I think Ali (and I have not yet read Harris' book) precisely sums up the dominant position among the political establishment on both sides of the aisle, and why that approach is so destructive.

Westerners see these cultures merely as different versions of the world they know, with dominant values similar to those espoused in their own culture. But this, Harris argues, is a fatal mistake. It implies that the West fails to appreciate both its history and the true nature of its opposition.

Nor, he points out, is the failure linked to a particular political outlook. Liberals and conservatives alike share this misperception. Noam Chomsky and Paul Wolfowitz agreed, Harris writes, “that you couldn’t really blame the terrorists, since they were merely the victims of an evil system — for Chomsky, American imperialism, for Wolfowitz, the corrupt and despotic regimes of the Middle East.” That is to say, while left and right may disagree on the causes and the remedies, they both overlook the fanaticism inherent in Islam itself. Driven by their blind faith in reason, they interpret the problem in a way that is familiar to them, in order to find a solution that fits within their doctrine of reason. The same is true for such prominent intellectuals as Samuel Huntington and Francis Fukuyama.

This, to me, is part of the highly successful strategy of the Muslim Brotherhood and its allies, both on the _jihadist_ front and on the political side. They subtly set the terms of the debate to exclude anyone but themselves. And way too often, we accept those terms, to the detriment of ourselves in general, and to those who fight this strategy, like Stephen Coughlin.

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