I’m very glad to see your thoughtful response to my article. More than anything, I had hoped to spark some discussion about how Islam is taught in various government agencies, so am glad to see you carrying the discussion forward.
You write, “As should be clear, I agree with problems that the author identifies in the US. However, I fail to see what this has to do with the issue of educating our personnel.”
One reason you might disagree with aspects of my article is because you viewed it primarily through the lens of preparing deploying soldiers. That is an important part of what I’m writing about, but I actually intended the article to encompass a much broader range of government needs. Government employees have many different reasons they might need to understand something about Islam. Congressmen and their staffs are trying to make sense of the alleged “shariah threat” and calls for anti-shariah legislation; law enforcement agencies and the FBI need a way to understand and delineate between “moderates” and “extremists”, so they can hone in on real threats while respecting the civil liberties of ordinary Muslims; military commanders concerned with preventing the next Ft. Hood want to know how they can recognize extremist ideology; government agencies involved in any sort of outreach to Muslim communities struggle to find partners they can work with, because the largest American-Islamic organizations that claim to speak for American Muslims are tarnished by alleged links to extremism and terrorism. These are all issues where the “culture war” intersects with policymaking, so I believe government employees working such issues really need to understand Islam at a deeper level. Unfortunately, numerous examples show that these groups may be susceptible to the arguments of the culture wars. It is these sorts of groups I had in mind when I wrote the article.
Every training/education program that touches on Islam will be unique, and have specific needs. An Islam primer for deploying soldiers will look nothing like a program designed for counterterrorism agents working on domestic Islamic radicalization. My goal was to lay out some principles that might be useful across this entire range of activities, but I had to tackle this enormous subject in a mere 3,000 words and admittedly could have done a better job explaining the diversity of approaches needed. I think you offer many good thoughts on the needs for deploying soldiers, and hope such discussion will continue.
“How to Teach About Islam” on Abu Muqawama
Former Army officer Tim Mathews has a response to my AFJ article on Abu Muqawama. He mostly agrees with my diagnosis of the problems with discourse about Islam in the U.S., but believes my proposed solutions are way overkill. Military commanders do not need to turn their subordinates into Islam scholars; they want direct, useful, practical knowledge that will make their units more effective combat. This is the reply I left on Abu M: