WH to refocus anti-extremism program on radical Islam
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WH to refocus anti-extremism program on radical Islam

Some groups have already begun rejecting grants, fearing the government may use initiative for surveillance purposes

US President Donald Trump pauses during a meeting in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2017. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
US President Donald Trump pauses during a meeting in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2017. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

The Trump administration wants to overhaul and rename a US government program intended to counter violent ideologies so that it focuses only on Islamist extremism, according to the Reuters news agency.

The program, “Countering Violent Extremism,” or CVE, would be renamed “Countering Islamic Extremism” or “Countering Radical Islamic Extremism,” Reuters reported Friday, quoting unnamed sources.

The new program would no longer target groups such as white supremacists, who have also carried out bombings and shootings in the United States.

The existing program aims to deter groups or lone attackers through community partnerships and educational programs or counter-messaging campaigns in cooperation with companies like Google or Facebook.

But now the Trump administration wants to switch the focus exclusively to combating “radical Islam.”

During the campaign, President Donald Trump criticized former President Barack Obama for being weak in the fight against ISIS and for refusing to say the words “radical Islam” in describing it. Islamic State has claimed responsibility for attacks on civilians in several countries.

Proponents of the program fear that renaming it might make it harder for the government to work with the Muslim population in America, already hesitant to trust the new administration. A further rift in relations between Muslim Americans and the White House came last week with Trump’s executive order that temporarily blocks travel to the United States from seven Muslim-majority countries.

Some Republicans in Congress have criticized the existing program as politically correct and ineffective, asserting that singling out and using the term “radical Islam” as the trigger for many terror attacks would help focus efforts to deter attackers.

On the other hand, others claim that branding the problem as “radical Islam” would alienate more than three million Americans who practice Islam peacefully.

Many community groups, meanwhile, had already been cautious about the program, partly over concerns that it could double as a surveillance tool for law enforcement.

Leaders Advancing & Helping Communities, a Michigan-based group led by Lebanese-Americans, has declined a $500,000 grant from the Department of Homeland Security it had sought as part of the CVE program, according to an email the group sent that was seen by Reuters. A representative for LAHC confirmed the grant had been rejected but declined further comment.

“Given the current political climate and cause for concern, LAHC has chosen to decline the award,” said the email, which was sent last Thursday, a day before Trump issued his immigration order.

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