Wedged in between Christmas and New Year came this item from The Washington Times' Bill Gertz. Looking ahead to 2008, I believe it will develop into one of important stories of the year.
Pro-Muslim officials at the Pentagon are putting political pressure on one of the U.S. military's most important specialists on Islamist extremism, according to defense officials.
Stephen Coughlin, a specialist on Islamic law on the Joint Staff, met recently with Hasham Islam, Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon R. England's close aide. The officials said Mr. Islam, a Muslim who is leading efforts for the Defense Department's outreach to Muslim groups, sought to convince Mr. Coughlin to take a softer line on Islam and Islamic law elements that promote extremism.
There is also evidence that a whispering campaign is under way to try and discredit Mr. Coughlin as a "Christian extremist with a pen" and force him out of the building, according to the officials.
Mr. Coughlin came under fire from pro-Muslim officials after a memorandum he wrote identified several groups that are being courted by Mr. Islam's community outreach program as front organizations for the pro-extremist Muslim Brotherhood.
Mr. Coughlin based the memorandum on documents released as evidence in a federal terrorism trial that he stated "are beginning to define the structure and outline of domestic jihad threat entities, associated nongovernmental organizations and potential terrorist or insurgent support systems."
Mr. Coughlin noted that the documents identified one of the Muslim Brotherhood front groups as the Islamic Society of North America, whose leaders were hosted by Mr. England in April at the Pentagon, raising concerns that the deputy defense secretary does not understand clearly the nature of the Islamist threat he is working against as the No. 2 official.
Mr. England has been a leading advocate of what critics in the Pentagon say is a misguided attempt to reach out to the wrong Muslims, regardless of their views, in an effort to counter Muslim extremism.
That approach has kept military and civilian officials from conducting much-needed assessments of how Muslim extremists are waging war because doing so would involving analysis of Muslim religious tenets, a politically taboo subject area.
A Pentagon spokesman had no immediate comment on the differences between Mr. Islam and Mr. Coughlin.
More to come.