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This item is available on the Middle East Forum website, at

Coddling Islamists

by Winfield Myers
February 14, 2008

The U.S. Department of State has awarded a grant worth $494,368 to University of Delaware political scientist, Brookings Institution fellow, and Pentagon consultant Muqtedar Khan, who last fall objected to serving on a panel with a veteran of the Israeli Defense Forces. According to a UD press release, the grant is to be used, "to initiate a dialogue on religion and politics between key members of religious and community organizations in the Middle East and the United States."

The press release continued:

Under the grant, participants from Egypt and Saudi Arabia will be on campus this summer for a brief period before traveling to other locations, including New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. Later a group of American scholars will travel to Egypt and Saudi Arabia to take part in similar activities in those countries. A documentary film is planned of the visit to the U.S.

The choice of Khan to oversee a program dedicated to expanding dialogue between religious communities is beyond parody, as Khan himself has a record of thwarting dialogue, at least with Israeli veterans. Moreover, his award is part of a larger pattern of coddling Islamists within the bureaucracies of the State Department and Pentagon.

Last October 23, Khan objected to the presence of IDF veteran and Campus Watch associate fellow Asaf Romirowsky on an academic panel at UD. Organized by students to discuss "Anti-Americanism in the Middle East," the panel was set to go when Khan—writing from Washington, DC, where he had delivered a workshop at the Pentagon—sent the following email to undergraduate Lara Rausch, one of the key organizers of the event:

Laura, I have to speak at the Pentagon tomorrow. My workshop is from 12-4. I hope to catch the 5 pm Acela from DC and will be back in town by 7 pm. I will come directly, but may be late. I am also not sure how I feel about being on the same panel with an Israeli soldier who was stationed in West Bank. Some people see IDF as an occupying force in the West Bank. I am not sure that I will be comfortable occupying the same space with him. It is not fair to spring this surprise on me at the last moment.

Romirowsky, contacted via email, was asked what he thought of the State Department's action of singling out Khan for a substantial award to encourage dialogue, was taken aback.

"I seriously question the type of dialogue this will promote given the fact that he wouldn't share space with me on an academic panel," Romirowsky replied.

"Dialogue is good if you have something to dialogue about—starting with accepting the others' right to exist," he continued. "Yet, by not sitting on a panel with me due to my IDF service, he basically questioned Israel's right to exist within safe and secure borders."

"That itself should throw into question the integrity of any dialogue he might initiate."

In the two months following the story's October debut, Khan offered no fewer than three additional explanations for why he acted as he did. I documented these in December, and concluded that the reasons he gave in the October 23 email above rang truest: IDF vets are off-limits on panels in which he participates. The other excuses were little more than a smokescreen, set off in a vain attempt to reduce the embarrassment his intolerance had brought to himself and the University.

Khan's large grant from the State Department, coupled with his role as a Pentagon advisor, further exposes a troubling trend within those federal departments of coddling Islamists and turning a blind eye toward intolerance. Hesham Islam, special assistant for international affairs in the office of Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England, has made news lately for allegedly calling Joint Chief analyst on counterterrorism Major Stephen Coughlin, who also reported to England, a "Christian zealot with a pen" and pressing for his removal.

Coughlin is widely celebrated as one of a small number of Pentagon analysts who are consistently tough on Islamism—a stance that has made enemies within the Defense bureaucracy. His thesis from the National Defense Intelligence College, titled "‘To Our Great Detriment': Ignoring What Extremists Say about Jihad," is celebrated by terrorism experts as a clear-sighted warning that too few in Washington care to heed.

Although the Pentagon took Hesham Islam's biography off its web site, stories of his fate, along with that of Coughlin, are mixed. Rep. Sue Myrick (R-NC), who investigated the matter, wrote on February 5 that Coughlin told her there was never a conspiracy to remove him from his job. Some reports claim that Islam himself is on his way out, but Claudia Rosette, who investigated the matter closely, says on her blog that a call to the Pentagon produced a denial of that story. Steven Emerson has detailed Islam's past relationships with Islamists.

One thing, however, is certain: by entrusting Middle East studies specialists such as Muqtedar Khan with huge grants to bring Saudis and Egyptians to America, the State Department and Pentagon are remaining true to form. From former Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy Karen Hughes's stated fondness for the works of Wahhabi apologist John Esposito—a man who shares Hesham Islam's predilection for Christian-bashing — to Khan's previous work for the Pentagon, our federal departments entrusted with protecting America from Islamists are in fact employing them.

Winfield Myers is Director of Campus Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum.

This item is available on the Middle East Forum website, at  

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