On May 23rd, Chicago Tonight reports:
“…In January, the Department of Homeland Security announced the recipients of $10 million in grant funding for its Countering Violent Extremism initiative, which has been opposed by the American Civil Liberties Union, the Council on American-Islamic Relations and other civil rights groups for reportedly discriminating against Muslims. Critics say that Countering Violent Extremism, also known as CVE, relies on false indicators to identify at-risk individuals, singling out those who grow beards, regularly attend mosques or participate in political causes.
But critics of CVE say the strategy has had the opposite effect, further stigmatizing American Muslims and casting unwarranted suspicion on harmless activities or behaviors, such as kids who show signs of alienation. CVE opponents also argue that the program has not been shown to prevent crime, and that it is based on debunked theories that falsely link political or religious views to propensity for violence.
“We know that there are a lot of alienated and bullied kids in America who don’t commit acts of violence,” said Nicole Nguyen, an assistant professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago’s College of Education who studies the intersection of national security and U.S. public schooling. “There are tons of devout religious people who never commit violent extremism. So how is it that we’re coming to filter out who we think might actually be a terrorist? And of course, those are usually racial and religious profiling practices.”
Nguyen, who has studied CVE efforts for more than a year, said the counter-extremism initiative often amounts to intelligence gathering veiled as community-based programs.
Ahmed Rehab, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations’ Chicago chapter, said CVE frames the issue of extremism as law enforcement versus the Muslim community, rather than law enforcement versus suspects.
“It gives the false impression that violent extremism is a headline issue in the Muslim community rather than a hidden, underground and extremely rare issue,” Rehab said.
Junaid Afeef, who is overseeing the ICJIA’s new program, said it is designed to address radicalization to violence “across the spectrum” and is not focused on a single faith community.
“I share the concerns that civil liberty groups have about some of the [CVE] research,” Afeef said, “[such as] the idea that there is a linear progression of radicalization; that religious affiliation, particularly of Islam, plays a role in radicalization. These things that the civil liberty organizations have raised, I agree with 100 percent.”