"Countering Islamic Extremism" Program is Unconstitutional & Dangerous

February 9, 2017

Photo by Karl-Ludwig Poggemann (CC BY 2.0)
Photo by Karl-Ludwig Poggemann (CC BY 2.0)

Recent reports indicate that the Trump Administration plans to replace a broadly-construed Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) program with one focused solely on Muslims. These reports suggest that the Trump Administration will gut the current program, remove right-wing extremists and white supremacist groups altogether, and replace it with the Countering Islamic Extremism (CIE) program.

MPAC vigorously opposes such a program and is working on multiple fronts — including legislative and legal — to stop its creation and implementation. We believe the proposed CIE program unconstitutionally targets a religion in violation of the establishment clause; legitimizes claims by violent extremists by associating their ideologies with Islam; ignores other forms of extremism that are a threat; and sidetracks efforts to address extremism in a multi-faceted way.

CIE Stigmatizes and Criminalizes Muslims

Previous administrations understood the importance of completely separating the perverted ideologies of extremists from the Islam practiced by over a billion Muslims worldwide. In 2007, the Bush Administration, under the advisement of Secretary Michael Chertoff, decided to remove religious labeling when talking about terrorism. This was part of a larger effort to change the narrative that the U.S. was at war with Islam — a narrative that benefited Al-Qaeda and Islamophobes alike. Similarly, in 2014, when the Obama Administration started the current CVE program, he and his officials were unequivocal in their policy not to refer to violent extremists as “Islamic extremists.”

President Obama also listened when MPAC, along with others from the American Muslim community, advocated for the CVE framework to include all types of violent extremism caused by racial, religious, or political hatred, including white supremacists and right-wing anti-government fundamentalists.

The Trump administration’s deliberate departure from previous administrations is reflective of the deeply disturbing, dangerous worldview that his administration holds — that Islam itself breeds extremism, and that it is the only form of extremism that is a danger to our society. This position recklessly ignores government data and assessments that show the biggest threat to our domestic security comes from right-wing extremism and white supremacy. Moreover, the proposed CIE program places an entire American faith community under suspicion and increases the likelihood of anti-Muslim sentiment, incidents, and hate crimes.

Let Communities Lead

It is and has been MPAC’s position that local communities, not the government, should take the lead in implementing community resilience programs. Last year, we proposed to the Obama Administration a public health model of community-based and community-led programs that work across various disciplines to provide individuals and neighborhoods access to religious- and culturally-nuanced resources that address mental health, social service needs, and other issues to build resilience in communities.

Fear based politics do not make our nation safer, but less safe. They fracture our country and hinder our ability to create solutions together that would protect our national security and put America first. We are strongest when we are united and fighting for our values, not divided and destroying them. 

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