MPAC Responds to Revised List of DHS Grant Awardees

June 23, 2017


Press Release

 

(Washington, DC, 6/23/17) - The Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), issued a statement in response to the Department of Homeland Security’s new list of award recipients for its Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) Grant Program that was released earlier today.

In January of 2017, the Obama administration awarded a total of 31 organizations in multiple communities some part of the $10 million appropriated by Congress, supporting activities that included intervention, developing resilience, challenging the narrative, and building capacity by local governments, universities, and non-profits. Among the awardees were organizations that focused on a wide variety of issues related to violent extremism, from addressing the rise in white-supremacist groups, to countering ISIL’s fictitious narrative of a cosmic war, to improving basic social services for homeless and drug-addicted populations in rural parts of the country.

Today, the Office of Community Partnerships at the Department of Homeland Security announced a heavily revised list of awardees that significantly reduced the scope of the program’s original intent. A number of the original awardees were removed from the final list, including MPAC.

In a statement, MPAC said:

“Our mission is to improve public understanding and policies that affect American Muslims. For nearly two decades, we’ve advocated for national security policies that keep our country safe while adhering to constitutional norms and values. It is through this lens that our advocacy on changing the federal government’s Countering Violent Extremism program was focused.

 This advocacy centers on three principles: 

  • All forms of domestic terror must be equally confronted, including those of anti-government, right-wing, and white nationalist extremists;
  • Interventions must be community-led without law enforcement involvement; and
  • Civil liberties are sacrosanct because national security must never be used as a pretext for discrimination on the basis of race, religion, or country of origin. 

The notification letter we received today explained that upon further review, MPAC was excluded because we did not meet the criteria of working with law enforcement to counter violent extremism. This is true. Our position on this issue has consistently centered on community-led initiatives that improve mental health resources, access to counseling, and a host of other social services without the involvement or spectre of law enforcement. 

While we have developed working relationships with law enforcement agencies in the past to improve officer training and the reporting of hate crimes, we have never conflated this work with community responses to issues of vulnerability and alienation. To do so would fundamentally compromise our ability to provide safe and nurturing spaces. Our grant application embodied those core principles, and its ultimate rejection by the Trump administration clearly demonstrates a dramatic and worrying change in approach. 

Furthermore, the revised list issued by DHS does not award grants to any organizations that focus primarily on extremism emanating from anti-government, right-wing, and white nationalist groups. In fact, the new list of awardees removed previously awarded organizations that worked to counter white supremacy as well as those that focused on issues of drug addiction, homelessness, and domestic abuse.

For example:

  • Life After Hate works to counter the seeds of hate within the American violent far-right extremist movement.
  • Music in Common works with diverse cultures and faiths to discover common ground  through collaborative songwriting, multimedia and performance.
  • Project Help Nevada provides prevention and education services and resources to at risk youth, adults and families struggling with addiction, violence, homelessness and abuse.

The Trump Administration’s mishandling of the grant process underscores two fundamental flaws in its CVE policy: it focuses on criminal investigations in a non-criminal space, and it turns a blind eye to white supremacist violence. The exclusion of groups like MPAC point to a DHS that is ineffective in coordinating with communities and unconstitutional in its treatment of a religious minority. MPAC will continue challenging the trajectory of the Trump administration’s efforts in this space by advocating for a holistic approach that empowers rather than sidelines communities, focuses on all forms of violent threats, and fosters a climate of trust over fear. We are considering all legal options in light of these changes.”

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ABOUT MPAC

The Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), founded in 1988, is a national public affairs nonprofit organization working to promote and strengthen American pluralism by increasing understanding and improving policies that impact American Muslims. Over the past 30 years, MPAC has built a reputation of being a dynamic and trusted American Muslim voice for policymakers, opinion shapers, and community organizers across the country.

MEDIA CONTACT

Rabiah Ahmed, Media and Public Affairs Director at 202-439-1441 or rabiah@mpac.org.

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