Source: Huffington Post
Co–authored by Sammy Rangel, Executive Director of Life After Hate
Yesterday, the House Subcommittee on National Security held a hearing on Combating Homegrown Terrorism. As Americans, we believe in a secure nation where all communities feel safe and protected. However, the makeup and remarks of the hearing, combined with the multiple actions the current administration has taken since day one, give us great pause for concern. It seems that members of this administration, including a significant segment of Congress, are not committing resources to confront all forms of violent extremism. There is evidence in that language that encourages prioritizing the criminalization of American Muslim communities rather than support that community. Such a narrative or approach does nothing to make us safer.
Last month, the Department of Homeland Security trimmed the list of awardees for its Office of Community Partnership (OCP) Grant under its Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) initiative. Both Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) and Life After Hate (LAH), Inc, were removed from the list. To be clear, each program have distinctly different audiences and scopes of work. MPAC intended to use the grant funding to support broader community-led social services and mental health programs because we believe creating safe spaces where individuals can express their vulnerabilities and frustrations is paramount. Life After Hate works specifically with individuals who wish to leave extremist movements (primarily focused on the far-right, but not limited to) and works with schools and organizations to heal, prevent, and counter racism and violent extremism.
Importantly, neither of the applications included roles for federal or local law enforcement agencies in the scope of our work. That wasn’t by accident. Both research and professional knowledge and experience dictate that no community-led effort to reach vulnerable individuals can be effective with the specter of law-enforcement hanging over it. A young, law-abiding American Muslim who already has reservations about approaching their imam to help work through ideological influences and often legitimate frustrations, is even less likely to do so if they believe that imam will turn around and report them to the police or FBI. This is not to say that the two organizations do not work to educate and learn from law enforcement, to develop partnerships with law enforcement, and/or utilize law enforcement when appropriate for public safety. In rejecting MPAC’s application, the Trump administration explicitly identified this lack of involvement by law enforcement agencies as grounds for our removal.
Life After Hate subscribes to the same philosophy of community-led approaches to countering the influences and effects of hate. LAH, however, focuses primarily on far-right violent extremism (however, 50% of its grant would have allowed for focusing on Muslim extremists as well). Ideologically-motivated attacks by right-wing nationalists and white supremacist groups have skyrocketed over the past two years. In just the few months since the 2016 presidential elections, the Southern Poverty Law Center has reported over 1,500 hate-motivated bias incidents, and a sharp spike in the formation of hate groups. LAH’s work to address the root causes of this rising tide could not come at a more critical moment. The narrative and actions of this administration, and many members of Congress, imply the country would be safer if they focused in other areas not related to the far right.
Categories: The Muslim Times