Activists in America challenge terrorism program as unfair to Muslims

SHAFAQNA - Muslim groups and civil rights activists across the nation Thursday called for greater transparency in a program by the Obama administration that’s aimed at countering home-grown terrorism.

Organizers, including representatives from the American Civil Liberties Union and the Council on American-Islamic Relations, spoke out at coordinated events in Boston, Los Angeles and Minneapolis — the three cities where the Countering Violent Extremism program is being piloted.

Among their concerns is that organizers still refuse to share basic information about what the localized efforts will actually look like. They also object to federal authorities conducting invitation-only discussions about the program, referred to as CVE, to the exclusion of dissenting groups.

Last week, more than 200 academics, terrorism experts and government officials gathered for a conference in Arlington, Va., sponsored by the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice. It was titled “Radicalization and Violent Extremism: Lessons Learned from Canada, the UK and the US.”

Among the attendees and panelists were leaders of the CVE efforts in the pilot cities, according to a copy of the program provided to The Associated Press.

“This isn’t a community-based process,” Nadeem Mazen, a city councilor in Cambridge, Mass., and board member of the local CAIR chapter, said during a small gathering in front of Boston City Hall. “This is a whole different level of federally coordinated assault on our civil liberties.”

The Homeland Security Department in Washington said it was committed to participating in the CVE effort “at all levels,” noting that Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson has personally taken part in meetings in communities across the country.

In Los Angeles, opponents announced Thursday that they have filed public records requests of federal, state and local authorities in an effort to obtain all available information about the operation of the program in California. Boston opponents said they, too, were crafting a similar request.

In Minnesota, opponents speaking at a Somali marketplace delivered a message shared by their Boston and Los Angeles counterparts — that Muslims are being unfairly targeted by the pilot programs.

“We believe it is morally and democratically repugnant to single out a community based solely on its religious affiliation and ethnic makeup,” said Kassim Busuri, education director at the Da’wah Institute in St. Paul, speaking at an event.


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